December 31, 2014
NEW YEARS EVE PARTY!
Celebrating 56 Years of the Cuban Revolution
Celebrating the release of the Cuban 5 Heroes
and their return to Cuba!
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Written Report Below Photo Gallery
Celebrating the 56th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution!
We Celebrate Cuba and We Celebrate With Cuba!
The Cuban 5 Are ALL Free!
“For a long, long time, we have dreamed of a moment like this, we dreamed that one day we would be here and sometimes, in the morning when we got up and thought about the things awaiting us that day, the only thing that raised our spirits was to dream of this moment, the moment of being in Cuba again with our people and it was really worth it."
- Cuban 5 Hero Gerardo Hernandez, December 2014
New Year's Eve has been celebrated in Cuba with a particular excitement for the past 56 years. This is because it also happens to be the day that the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in the middle of his own poorly timed New Years Eve party. Dressed no doubt in an fine expensive suit, Batista had received the news that the revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro were taking control of the country. As the sun rose on January 1st, 1959, so did the initial triumph of the Cuban Revolution! This year the celebration even had heightened emotion, as all 5 of the Cuban Heroes unjustly imprisoned in US jails were finally home with their families for the first time in 16 years.
10 years ago Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) organized its first Cuban New Year's Eve Party, with the goal of sharing the joy, excitement and importance of the example of the Cuban Revolution. The celebration has grown every year, and this year over 300 enthusiastic people crowded the Victoria Drive Community Hall to make this the largest celebration yet.
VCSC Coordinator Tamara Hansen opened the evening by recounting the historic victories Cuba made this year, especially the December 17th announcement of Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama that the Cuban 5 would be released from US jails and that there was an agreement to begin normalizing relations between the two countries. “After over five decades of US aggression Cuba never compromised on the important pillars of its sovereignty and Revolution, while it is the US government which has been forced to change the policies which have left it isolated on the world stage,” Tamara said.
Free the Cuban 5 Committee -Vancouver co-Coordinator Alison Bodine MC'd the evening. She introduced Richmond NDP President and VCSC Secretary Colleen Glynn, who explained how VCSC was created as a response to growing US aggression against Cuba in 2004, and has continued to become one the most active Cuba solidarity groups around the world.
An audio greeting by Javier Domokos, Cuban Consul General in Toronto, was played in which he thanked Vancouver organizers especially for their consistent work to free the Cuban 5 Heroes. Canadian Network on Cuba co-chair Elizabeth Hill attended the celebration and also brought greetings. Solidarity with Ayotzinapa-Vancouver organizer Daniel Mendoza then informed the crowd about the continuing movement in Mexico demanding justice for 43 university students who were violently abducted and “disappeared” on their way to a demonstration over 3 months ago.
Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver executive committee member Azza Rojbi spoke about the work of the Committee which organized 109 consecutive monthly protests in front of the U.S Consulate before the Cuban 5 were freed. She smiled when recounting how the 110th demonstration was on December 17th, when supporters joined together in front of the US Consulate one last time to celebrate the release of the Cuban 5. Azza also showed a moving video of the moments when the Cuban 5 actually touched down in Cuba and saw their families and the Cuban people for the first time.
The hall was covered from floor to ceiling with historic Cuban posters and large banners with slogans like the famous Che Guevara quote, “We are realists, we dream the impossible.” All of the Cuban 5 banners, so well used for the past decade, had large signs saying, “FREED!” pinned on top of them. A large banner surrounded by lights occupied the front space on the stage with the letters, “VOLVIERON!” (“THEY HAVE RETURNED!”)
FMLN-Vancouver organizer Maria Melendez began the cultural performances of the evening as she strummed her guitar and sang soulful songs from El Salvador and Latin-America. She was followed by MX Katracho's unique and engaging performance of traditional “Ranchero” music from Honduras.
By the time the salsa lesson began people were crowding into every corner of the hall. Young and old, longtime and new Cuba supporters - all enjoying delicious Latin-American food, Cuban drinks, and a vibrant community atmosphere. They gathered together on the dance floor, making new friends and learning the steps to the iconic Cuban dance as taught by VCSC organizer Janine Solanki.
New Year's crowd favourite DJ 100Fuegos literally kept the dance floor full the entire night with an exciting mix of Cuban, Latin-American and international favourites. The only pause in dancing was as the clock neared midnight and people gathered to shout the countdown together. When the clock struck midnight, hundred of balloons fell on the crowd as people embraced and celebrated a New Year and new victories on the horizon.
When the music finally wound down, participants were treated to a special recorded New Year's greeting from the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, Julio Garmendia Peña. He concluded by saying, “I want to express to you our thanks on behalf of the 5, on behalf of their families and behalf of the Cuban people.” He was followed by Latin-American community organizer Wilson Muñoz who spoke enthusiastically about the growing initiative to create a Latin American Cultural Centre in Vancouver.
The evening ended on further happy notes, as the winners of a Cuban 5 trivia game were awarded their prizes and happy raffle winners came up to collect their packages of Cuban books, coffee, rum and honey. People also took the opportunity to have their New Year's photo taken with a life size poster with all of the Cuban 5 smiling together back in Cuba.
While last New Year's Eve many were celebrating the important gains made in the international campaign to free all of the Cuban 5, few imagined their freedom would come so soon. The Cuban Revolution has always had the ability to surprise, and to move forward and advance humanity's interests despite constant attacks and interference. 56 years is still young for a revolution, and the Cuban Revolution continues to offer extraordinary leadership for the world. Leadership which was once again definitely deserving of celebration!