La Lucha: Cuba

The Cuban family I stayed with in Santa Clara, 1997


From Left to Right: Luis, Nereo Rivero Duran, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Clara, Albis L. Sanchez Cespedes in front of their apartment in Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba in July 1997.




Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the August 28, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Olivia Burlingame & Minnie Bruce Pratt

[The writers were delegates to the World Youth Festival.]

On July 28, some 12,000 people--mostly young--arrived in Havana for the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students.

On July 30, over 200 delegates from the United States, Vietnam, Finland, Poland, Australia and other countries boarded a "Solidarity Train" and headed east to Santa Clara, in the province of Villa Clara.

There the last battle of the Revolution was waged under the leadership of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. And there his remains will be interred in October, the 30th anniversary of his assassination by the CIA.

During the five-hour train ride we passed through many small towns that have been developed and nurtured thanks to the Revolution. People waved to us, crowding onto porches lit only by one small fluorescent circle.

Occasionally we'd see a truck in the middle of a cane field, using precious battery energy to shine the headlights toward us in a sign of solidarity.

Almost 40 years ago, in December 1958, the final blow of the Revolution was struck against another kind of train--El Tren Blindado, or the Armored Train. Sent by the dictator Fulgencio Batista, that train was loaded with tons of heavy armament and over 400 soldiers.

It was derailed in Santa Clara. In an hour and a half, 18 revolutionary soldiers armed only with rifles and Molotov cocktails defeated the government troops.

This brilliant victory was a determining moment in the defeat of "la tirania"--the tyranny--of Batista.


We arrived in Santa Clara around 11 p.m. Hundreds greeted us with love, open arms and a storm of rose petals.

Buses took us to the Plaza Ernesto Guevara where young Cubans performed folk songs of resistance and revolution. Local leaders of the Young Communists of Cuba (UJC) welcomed us.

Towering above the ceremony was a spectacular statue of Che Guevara striding forward, rifle in hand,"hasta la victoria siempre"--always toward victory.

Che is honored in Santa Clara as much for the industries and schools he inaugurated as for his military victory. We visited several factory complexes he initiated, including the Planta Meca nica, where machinery is produced.

Workers there said they make the important decisions about their work, such as raising production quotas. They have big, airy lunchrooms, basketball courts and a clubhouse.

It was a shock and an education for us who live under capitalism to see workers who are relaxed and positive, working in spacious areas that have plenty of natural light and are carefully equipped with safety gear against excess noise.

We also toured a local factory complex--INPUD. Before 1964, there was only one factory in the area--a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Today 12 production lines turn out bicycles, window fans, refrigerators, gas stove tops, coffee makers and other home appliances.

We were welcomed by a trio of drummers chanting revolutionary slogans to traditional rhythms, evoking dances and songs from 19th century Afro-Cubano mutual-aid societies--the tumbas and cabildo that were ardent supporters of Cuban independence struggles.

We learned that some workers' salaries exceed the INPUD director's pay. Workers said their biggest problem is the U.S. blockade, because it limits the importation of raw materials and therefore the number of workers who can be employed. But INPUD has worked hard to diversify, and to increase the work force.

A Cuban translator told us that as sugar fades as the leading export, the country is working hard to build other income-producing sources. In a striking contrast to U.S. corporations, he said: "We cannot close a sugar factory just because it is not as profitable. That would mean not only the loss of jobs, but the death of the community attached to the factory."

One example of diversification is the construction of a 30-mile stone causeway from the town of Caibarien to the northern coast of the island, in a landscape reminiscent of the Florida Keys. Forty-six bridges allow water to flow between the inner and outer bay of the island keys, ensuring that rare aquatic flora and fauna will survive.

Cuban engineers designed a long curving detour of the causeway to avoid disturbing a colony of flamingos. After hotels are built, this spectacular landscape will open for overseas tourists.


As we drove from the beach to the town of Vueltas, our buses were blocked by a huge paper banner stretched across the road, inscribed "Welcome--Bienvenido!!"

Five hundred people--the agricultural town's entire population--cheered us in drizzling rain. We were given fragrant white mariposas and greeted with a rousing revolutionary speech by the local secretary of the UJC.

Then a Conga troupe led everyone in a spirited dance, as all chanted, "Fidel! Fidel" and, "Cuba si! Bloqueo no!"

Our translator said revolutionary spirit is so fierce in the countryside because people remember that before the revolution, they lived in thatched-roof houses with dirt floors. There were no schools, no hospitals.

Today people have concrete-block homes, electricity, televisions and refrigerators. And people have medical care and access to schools.

People in Villa Clara repeatedly told us, "This is a revolution that keeps its promises."

On our last day in the province, hundreds of delegates sped--and wobbled--on locally produced bicycles to visit historical sites. Residents shouted encouragement as we got a good idea of the hot, strenuous daily transportation struggles most Cubans face as a result of the U.S. blockade, which severely limits the use of gasoline.


At a midnight fiesta with our host families before we returned to Havana, we talked of our new insights into the daily realities of life under the brutal U.S. blockade--the shortage of basic medical supplies, sudden electrical outages and other serious problems.

We had seen the daily life of a country where education and health care are free, where racism and sexism are consistently fought on the official and personal levels, where all people have shoes on their feet and a roof over their heads, where police do not murder youths.

We saw a country where people believe in their government and their Revolution.

Although sad to leave our new friends, we pledged to fight even harder to end the blockade on our return home. As we joined in singing the Cuban national anthem, we also repeated the watchwords of the 14th World Festival: "For anti-imperialism, solidarity, peace and friendship! Viva Cuba!"

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: For subscription info send message to: Web:

Near a Cuban tree.