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      Cuba Solidarity in Vancouver, Stronger Than Ever!

      By Janine Solanki

      In today’s world of imperialist wars, climate crisis and increasing attacks on poor and working people, Cuba stands out as a beacon for those fighting for a better world. While the U.S. and their imperialist allies export war and weapons, Cuba is exporting health, with doctors providing medical assistance to under-served communities and disaster zones around the world. While austerity measures and cuts to social services are being made in so-called first world countries, Cuba has continued to provide free healthcare and education without fail to their people, despite the pressure of the ongoing U.S. blockade.

      The Cuban Revolution, which has inspired struggles against injustice worldwide, began with a group of young Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. On July 26, 1953 this group attacked the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an initial strike against the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The July 26th Movement, named after this heroic effort, persisted and later led the Cuban Revolution to victory in January 1959! Every year July 26 or “Moncada day” is celebrated in Cuba and around the world by supporters of the Cuban Revolution. On July 27 this year, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) held a community BBQ to celebrate Cuba’s Moncada Day and the gains of the Cuban socialist revolution.

      A sunny afternoon at Vancouver’s Trout Lake Park was the perfect setting for the VCSC Moncada Day, with Cuban flags, banners and the smell of delicious food on the BBQ to welcome over 85 people who joined to support and celebrate Cuba. Alongside the cultural program, kids were excited to take part in the piñata, and adults had their own prizes to win in the raffle draw! VCSC organizers Azza Rojbi and Janine Solanki opened the event with brief history of July 26th, and the significance of the ongoing Cuban Revolution in today’s world. Cuba’s example and support has also been a vital part of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. VCSC coordinator Tamara Hansen and organizer Alison Bodine happened to be in Venezuela participating in the Foro de Sao Paulo solidarity conference and sent a message of greetings from Venezuela which was played at the event! You can read their report from Venezuela on page 8 of this issue of Fire This Time.

      The program continued with poets Alejandro Mujica-Olea and Macarena Cataldo Hernandez, representing the group Proyecto Cultural Sur Vancouver. Mayra Climaco, a Nicaraguan poet, activist and former Sandinista fighter also shared her moving poetry.

      Azza Robji took a moment to introduce an important petition campaign demanding that Canada reopen its visa services and IRCC offices in Havana, Cuba. The government of Canada’s unprecedented move closes the doors to Cuban family members, students, academics, artists and athletes traveling to Canada. Attendees were encouraged to sign on to the petition, an initiative of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) which VCSC is a member of. Everyone was then treated to the music of Maju Maju, a South African born singer and performer, now living in Vancouver.

      While the event brings a bit of Cuba to Vancouver, Janine then spoke about experiencing Cuba firsthand, on the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in May 2020, or the Calixto Garcia Brigade in December 2019. Janine, as the CNC’s national coordinator for the Che Guevara Brigade, encouraged attendees to consider joining this unique opportunity to visit Cuba.

      As twilight set in, it was time to warm up the evening with salsa dancing! An enthusiastic crowd joined a salsa lesson led by Janine. After learning a few new steps, the event came to a close with dancing to the beat of Cuban salsa under the canopy of trees!

      Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba has not missed any opportunity to be out in the summer sun this July! On July 7 VCSC had a busy table at the Commercial Drive Car Free Festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers each year. VCSC, joined the full day Pride Premiere event in downtown Vancouver, with an info table highlighting the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba.

      VCSC also sponsored and participated in the 6th annual “Sopa Sur” event organized by Proyecto Cultural Sur Vancouver, on July 28 at the Sopa Sur Latin American monument in Vancouver’s Seaforth Peace Park. This beautiful cultural event featured the poetry of many community members, and was led by Lucy Ortiz, director of Proyecto Cultural Sur Vancouver. The event was also a special recognition to Oscar Villalobos, a co-founder of the organization, poet and active community member and activist.

      Find out about the next VCSC event at www.vancubasolidarity.com, or follow on Facebook and Twitter @VanCuba_VCSC

      Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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