“My participation in the first Venceremos Brigade in 1969 was a transformative experience that set me on a path to becoming an anti-imperialist. The Cubans demonstrated such deep solidarity with revolutionary movements around the world, especially with the Vietnamese liberation struggle. I was able to see clearly the way much of the world saw the empire I was born into, and it made me want to commit myself to internationalism for the rest of my life.

I will always carry with me the example of the Cuban people’s ability to harness the energy and talents of everyday people towards the common good– through the literacy campaign, the training of doctors who would volunteer all over the world, the construction of schools and childcare centers. It was such a contrast to the greed and individualism of U.S. society that is so deeply embedded in this culture, and made it clear to me that there was another way for human beings to live.” – Donna Willmott, Member of the inaugural Venceremos Brigade in 1969

In December 2023, I traveled to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade on the 51st Solidarity Delegation. Being a part of this over 50 year long tradition was a really special way to experience a revolutionary country for the first time. We heard from Cuban veterans who volunteered to fight on the frontlines in Angola during the Angolan Struggle for National Liberation in the late 60s and 70s, learned about Cuba’s world class healthcare system and the work of their medics traveling abroad to share Covid vaccines with countries of the global south. We also learned about the implementation of Cuba’s new Family Code, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world which advances rights for queer and non-nuclear families, people with disabilities, children, and more.

One of the major aspects of the brigade since it was first launched in 1969 is solidarity labor. On our work days we pulled weeds in urban gardens alongside one another. Those with access needs were offered different ways to contribute. I had the special privilege of pulling weeds alongside a movement elder. We got to talk politics and deepen our understanding of our interrelated struggles as internationalists, from the Philippines and Puerto Rico to Cuba. We also learned about Cuba’s innovative permaculture design when a comrade noticed a fish swimming in a small underground hole between the garden beds. Canals populated with catfish delivered vital nutrients to the soil.

It was particularly eye opening to witness how the US-led blockade impacts life on the island. The Cubans have proved extremely resourceful with the limited access they have to materials and products as a result of the blockade. One of the chants we learned – Cuba Si! Bloqueo No!–reflects the steadfast struggle to end the blockade on Cuba, and our role in advancing that struggle from our position in the belly of the beast.

The Venceremos Brigade provides valuable educational opportunities for learning about the various components that create revolutionary society while developing meaningful international relationships and exchange. You can join the historic tradition of this solidarity trip by applying to be a part of the Venceremos Brigade 52. Applications are open through March 31. Learn more about the 2024 delegation through the VB’s website, or by emailing venceremosbrigade@protonmail.com with any questions. Bay Area and Sacramento – mark your calendars for the Venceremos Brigade’s upcoming open houses.

From the Archives:

In many ways, Cuba has played a major role in the Freedom Archives’ work. Several of our founders had formative experiences on the island. Both COINTELPRO 101 and Symbols of Resistance, two Freedom Archives documentaries, were screened in International Film Festivals in Havana and were broadcast on Cuban Television. The archives continues to support Cuba. Check out some of our materials below which speak to the legacy of the Venceremos Brigade and shed light on progressive advancements made in Cuban society.