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      Vancouver Cuba Solidarity Heats Up for Summer

      By Janine Solanki

      In Canadian mainstream media, the picture painted of Cuba and life for the Cuban people is largely a negative one. That picture is far from the truth! Despite the hardships imposed on Cuba by the U.S. blockade, the Cuban people enjoy a renowned universal healthcare and education system. Cubans live in a dynamic and inclusive political system that the Cuban people take a direct role in, from their fair and representative elections to participation in social organizations. The truth is that Cuba is an example which anyone interested in building a better world should look to!

      One of VCSC’s central campaigns is against the over 55 years long U.S. blockade of Cuba, which continues to put enormous strain on the Cuban economy and limits the availability of many import goods which Cubans need. Despite the historic announcement on December 17, 2014, by former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro that talks were starting for the normalization of U.S./Cuba relations, the U.S. government never lifted the blockade on Cuba. VCSC had the opportunity to discuss the U.S. blockade with hundreds of people at the annual Main Street Car Free Festival in Vancouver on June 17.

      The 21-block street festival draws over a hundred thousand people, many of which were attracted to the VCSC booth by the Cuban flags and banners, and by the colourful sidewalk chalk on the busy street reading “Hey Trump! Lift the Blockade on Cuba!”

      Another truth that VCSC is talking about is LGBTQ rights in Cuba. As a Community Partner in Vancouver Pride, every year VCSC participates in marches, tabling fairs and parades during the Pride season, breaking down the false notion that Cuba is a dangerous place to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or queer. In fact, a widespread and effective campaign against homophobia and transphobia has been in full effect for years in Cuba, with the support of the Cuban revolutionary government. Huge strides have been made in Cuba such as the right to adoption for same-sex couples, and free and accessible gender reassignment surgery. On June 23, VCSC participated in the annual East Side Pride event in Vancouver, with a table of information and a banner proclaiming “Cuba Says: LGBT+ Rights are Human Rights

      Also on June 23, VCSC organized an event celebrating the 90th anniversary of the birth of revolutionary hero Che Guevara. The event took advantage of the sunny summer weather and was held in Vancouver’s Trout Lake Park, complete with BBQ and potluck for everyone to enjoy! The event started out with a welcoming by Coast Salish Indigenous elder and activist Kelly White, whose strong voice and drumming led the crowd in song. After the welcoming, VCSC coordinator Tamara Hansen spoke about who Che Guevara was, as a leader in the Cuban revolution and an inspiration to people fighting for justice and a better future all around the world. The event was also an opportunity for brigadistas from the 26th annual Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade to report back from their recent trip to Cuba. Brigadistas Catherine and Janine shared stories from the trip, followed by Max who read poetry inspired by Cuba, and a voice message shared by Andrew, a brigadista living in Edmonton. The crowd was also treated to music from another brigadista, Andrew, who played on the guitar and sang for everyone to enjoy. Another musical act followed, with a singing debut by Nadia, a young Cuba solidarity supporter! Kids at the event had their fun demolishing a candy-filled piñata, while participants got up from their picnic tables and blankets to take part in a salsa lesson.

      With great summer weather ahead, VCSC will be out around Vancouver holding more events and participating in the upcoming street festivals and Pride events. To join in check for upcoming events at www.vancubasolidarity.com , follow on Facebook or Twitter @VanCuba_VCSC

      Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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