Venceremos Brigade

Fidel Castro

“The Venceremos Brigade is a politically motivated international organization founded in 1969 by members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and officials of the Republic of Cuba. It was formed as a coalition of young people attempting to show solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working side by side with Cuban workers, challenging U.S. policies towards Cuba, including the United States embargo against Cuba. The yearly brigade trips, which as of 2010 have brought more than 9,000 people to Cuba, continue today and are coordinated with the Pastors For Peace Friendship Caravans to Cuba. The 48th Brigade travelled to Cuba in July 2017.  In 1969, SDS was composed of competing factions with individual priorities and visions. SDS delegates travelled to Havana, and were inspired by Fidel Castro‘s New Year’s Day speech, in which he called on Cubans to help with the sugar harvest. Although the Americans originally offered to help by taking industrial jobs displaced by the massive sugar harvest, Fidel reportedly responded that if North Americans were to help, they would cut cane. Hoping to unite SDS members behind a new project, the leaders began planning a trip, bringing American activists to Cuba to cut sugar cane. Carl Oglesby originally presented the idea to members of SDS, but was ousted from SDS before it came to fruition. Bernardine Dohrn appointed Julie Nichamin and Brian Murphy to organize the trip. Allen Young was also partly responsible for the organization and negotiations with Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and other members of the Cuban government. While in the USA, the group met occasionally by regions to supervise, recruit, and fundraise for the trips. The trip cohort, the Venceremos (‘we shall triumph’ in Spanish language) Brigade, was promoted as an inspiring and educational experience.  In November 1969, the first brigade of 216 Americans travelled to Cuba from Mexico City to skirt the U.S. government’s restrictions on travel to the island. The participants were to contribute to Cuba’s monumental ten million ton zafra (harvest) of 1970, as well as to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The second Brigade arrived in February 1970, to cut cane and learn about Cuban life. Although the zafra did not reach ten million tons, the Brigades continued. …”
Sandy Lillydahl Venceremos Brigade Photograph Collection
Dissent: Cuba, Que Linda Es Cuba? Notes on a Revolutionary Sojourn, 1969
YouTube: Venceremos 1970 Cuba

… Postcard of Renato, Cuban jefe of work brigade, seated on bench (postcard from Sandra Rice inviting Lillydahl to festival on Cambridge Common).

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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