When I went to Cuba for the first time in 2006, I thought I knew what to expect. I had read all about Cuba's renowned universal healthcare and education systems and knew those famous names like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. I had recently graduated from high school, and I was prepared with my journal to take notes on all I would learn while on the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade! However, it was the less tangible aspects of the Cuban revolution that taught me about Cuba and made me fall in love with this incredible country.
In Cuba, I learned about political consciousness from a nine year old who shared her cookies with us and schooled us on the history of imperialist U.S. aggression against her country. I learned kindness and warmth from Cubans who patiently endured our broken Spanish, and made us feel welcome by spontaneously buying us ice cream. I learned about pride and dignity everywhere I went. It was on the faces of the brave young soldiers who guard the border of the U.S.-occupied territory of Guantanamo Bay. It was in the deep voice of the taxi driver who told me how "yo soy Fidel" (I am Fidel) means that Fidel's spirit is reflected in the Cuban people. Their leader, although physically no longer with us, is in the very mountains and palm trees of Cuba. When I met former combatants who fought in the Cuban Revolution, I learned that this revolution was by and for the people, made by farmers and workers, when they joined us in our volunteer work and showed us how hard these campesinos could work!
Cuba made a lifelong impact on me when I first joined the Che Guevara Brigade in 2006 and continues each time I visit - soon to be eight times on the Che Brigade! But enough about my stories and experiences - how about yours?
Cuba is known as a tourist destination by many in Canada - over a million tourists visit from Canada every year! While there is much appeal in Cuba's famous beaches, classic cars, and the irresistible music that compels you to get up and dance… it is only scratching the surface. This island nation defied U.S. imperialism, right under their nose, when Cuban revolutionaries threw out U.S. backed dictator Batista in 1959 and began developing a socialist project and planning for Cuban society on their own terms. After 60 years of a criminal U.S. blockade, despite this enormous economic pressure, the Cuban Revolution has not only survived but has thrived and made huge gains. Cuban scientists are developing life-saving medicines, and Cuban doctors and health professionals share their renowned healthcare around the world on internationalist missions. Just two years after the triumph of the revolution, Cuba eliminated illiteracy and have developed a world-class, universal education system. Even in the field of sports and arts, Cuba is well known on the world stage. So, what is the best way to experience all of these aspects of Cuba? As both a multiple visited brigadista and as the national coordinator of the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade, I claim that there is no better way to see Cuba than on the Che Guevara Brigade, a project of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). I encourage you to join this trip and prove me right!
From April 27 to May 10, 2020, brigadistas traveling to Cuba on the 27th Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade will learn from the Cuban people, whether by doing volunteer work together on a farm or by celebrating with over a million Cubans in Havana during International Workers Day on May 1, a truly fantastic experience! Brigadistas will learn about the Cuban revolution by visiting historical sites, but also by seeing the Cuban revolution as it develops its future today - while meeting with Cuban university students, or organizers in Cuba's LGBTQ community. Of course, Cuba's natural beauty is not to be missed, including visits to the beach! And one thing that cannot be escaped in Cuba, and which the Che Guevara Brigade embraces, is the vibrant art and culture, including salsa dance lessons! Most importantly, in everything the Che Guevara Brigade does, we will be practicing solidarity with our Cuban friends, while on the brigade and in the stories and experiences we take back to Canada.
Don't just take my word for it - across Canada, there are hundreds of people who have taken part in this unique trip over the last 27 years, from the age of 7 to 87 years old, and of all backgrounds and abilities! So, if you are reading this now and want to be a brigadista on the 2020 Che Guevara Brigade, head over to www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca/brigade for more info on the program and cost of the trip, or to register. Alternatively, you can give me a call at 778-881-6156 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be happy to answer your questions.
Vamos a Cuba!
Let's go to Cuba!
Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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