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      Long Live Fidel!
      Vancouver celebrates the 90th birthday of Fidel Castro!

      By Janine Solanki

      Saturday August 13 marked the 90th Birthday of Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary hero, leader and visionary. To understand who Fidel is, is to understand what the Cuban revolution is. Before Cuba's 1959 revolution, Cuba was the gambling and prostitution playground of the US, with its resources and labour force exploited to the hilt and its population impoverished and facing chronic unemployment, malnutrition and preventable diseases. Under Fidel's revolutionary leadership, this small island became an example to the world for its model of free, accessible and advanced healthcare and education, and whose educated and healthy people live with dignity. Cuba's pre-revolution illiteracy rate went from around 76% to illiteracy being eliminated within one year in 1961. Cuba's high level of education, living standards and healthcare means that Cuba actually now has the demographics of a first world, industrialized country. Looking to Cuba's youth, there is a high level of political and social engagement, with youth participating in their own organizations in the elementary, secondary and university level as well as a high youth representation in Cuban government. Cuban women are also leading in the struggle for equality and women's rights, aided by free childcare, equal pay and the Cuban Women's Federation. In fact, Cuban women make up 48.9% of Cuba's National Assembly, making Cuba the country with the fourth highest representation of women in government in the world.

      Thanks to Fidel's leadership, Cuba today is a beacon of hope for people all around the world, a proof that a better and more just world is possible. This is why in Cuba, around the world and here in Vancouver, Canada, supporters held events to celebrate the milestone birthday of someone who has inspired people all around the world and through multiple generations from the Cuban Revolution to today – Fidel Castro.

      Friday, August 12

      On Friday August 12 Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) held a full day of dynamic events for Fidel Castro's 90th Birthday, in Downtown Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library. Hundreds of people stopped by the library plaza to discuss and enjoy the open-air photo exposition "Fidel es Fidel"(Fidel is Fidel) by Cuban filmmaker and photographer, Roberto Chile. Passers-by took hundreds of leaflets, newsletters and materials explaining the historic and current role that Fidel's leadership has played throughout the development and gains of the Cuban Revolution and internationally. Included in those materials, dozens of copies of a new Battle of Ideas Press booklet "Fidel!" written by VCSC coordinator, Tamara Hansen, were purchased by those hoping to learn more about Fidel, who is often slandered and misrepresented in mainstream media in the U.S. and Canada.

      In the evening, organizers, activists and supporters moved indoors at the Vancouver Public Library for the cultural and political celebration. The event, “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me” featured: speeches about the life and legacy of Fidel; live music with trovador Marcos Uribe and ranchera singer MX Katracho; moving poetry dedicated to Fidel by Wala Zaidan, Mayra Climaco, Max Tennant and Shakeel Lochan; and the Vancouver premier of the Roberto Chile documentary: “CHAVEZ Y FIDEL, Hasta Siempre.” VCSC was also honoured to receive and present beautiful video greetings from: Eva Doris of the Quebec Desk of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Javier Domokos, the Cuban Consul General in Toronto and Miguel Barnet, a member of Cuba's National Assembly and President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Over 80 people of all ages and backgrounds came to the library to enjoy the exciting evening, with most planning to return for the second day of celebrations!

      Saturday, August 13

      On Saturday August 13, due to the overwhelmingly positive reception on the day before, the "Fidel es Fidel" photography exposition was extended to begin an hour earlier and end an hour later than originally scheduled. Saturday’s exposition attracted many passers-by, many of which stopped to discuss Fidel, the Cuban Revolution and had questions about the current ongoing US blockade against Cuba. Some also asked to have their photos taken beside one of the photos of Fidel!

      Later that evening the last event in the two-day celebration of Fidel’s birthday took place again in the Vancouver Public Library. A full house was treated to “An Evening with Fidel”, a dynamic play taken from Fidel Castro’s iconic speeches, interviews and memoirs featuring actor and director, Tim Perez. Following the performance, the enthusiastic audience participated in a question and answer session with Tim Perez. No birthday celebration is complete without a cake. Participants joined in singing “Happy Birthday” while actor Tim Perez filled in the part of Fidel by blowing out the candles on the Fidel hat-shaped cake. The audience had a chance to enjoy the delicious cake and to snap photos with “Fidel” as the evening closed with a reception and the loud and united chants of:

      VIVA CUBA!

      Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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