July 8, 2013

Pastors for Peace Event in Kamloops, BC a great Success!
The Caravan to Cuba prepares to cross the US/ Canada Border on July 14!

The British Columbia, Canada leg of the 24th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba began with an excellent event in the city of Kamloops on July 8, 2013. This was the second consecutive year a Caravan event has taken place in Kamloops, and judging by the growing turnout, interest is on the rise. The Kamloops event was hosted by the Kamloops Socialist Club, while the BC leg of the Caravan tour is organized by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the BC Aid Network for Cuba (BCANC).

This year the Caravan will bring humanitarian aid and construction tools and supplies to help in the reconstruction efforts in Santiago de Cuba, on the eastern end of the island which was severely affected by Hurricane Sandy. Since 1992 the Pastors for Peace Caravan has been directly challenging the US blockade on Cuba by bringing humanitarian aid and people to Cuba from the US and around the world.

The event took place on a hot summer's night in the popular The Art We Are Cafe in downtown Kamloops. Cuban flags and banners mingled with the wide array of artwork normally exhibited across the café's walls. The audience was a great mix of people, including a group of university social work students and their professor who had recently returned from a successful field school in Cuba.

The event was MC'd by Darcy Robinson of the Kamloops Socialist Club and Thomas Davies of the BCANC. The program was packed. It began with a documentary film showing on the negative effects of the US blockade of Cuba, and then a live video greeting from Manolo De Los Santos from the Pastors for Peace office in New York City. Manolo informed everyone that 5 other Caravans events were happening across North America that evening as part of more than 50 Caravan events this year in Canada, the US and Mexico.

Aaron Mercredi, a VCSC organizer and returning 'caravanista', reminded people of the successful struggle which happened on last year's Caravan. US authorities had tried to block humanitarian aid from crossing the US/Canada border, but after 24 hours of continuous protest and international media attention, they were forced to allow the aid to pass on its way to Cuba. Aaron urged everyone to come to this year’s border crossing to make sure the aid and BC 'caravanistas' are again allowed through!

Azza, a Tunisian social justice activist and also co-Coordinator of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee -Vancouver, spoke about her first trip to Cuba. She recalled the hugely positive impact Cuban society had had on her, and of the Caravan's importance in breaking down the divisions the US government is trying to impose between the people of Cuba and the people of the US.

Last but not least, hip-hop artist Joose Justis brought the evening to a close with a special selection of songs, including some which he had co-written with Cuban hip-hop pioneers Obsesion. Joose had the crowd chanting, "Che Guevarra!" and clapping in time with his beats.

The Pastors for Peace Caravan continues to be one of the most important solidarity projects around the world, and growing support in new areas like Kamloops show the strength of its "People to People Foreign Policy". With another event in nearby Seattle, Washington on July 12; a BBQ and cultural night in Vancouver on July 13; and the important Peace Arch border crossing on July 14 all happening in the next coming days the Caravan is really starting to roll on its way to break the blockade against Cuba!