19th Venceremos Brigade

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19th Venceremos Brigade

Yuri Kochiyama testimony

Yuri Kochiyama travelled to Cuba;

It had always been my dream to go to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, but I didn't think that would be possible as I was in my sixties sixty seven years old to be exact when I applied. I didn't think that anyone as old as me would be accepted, but I later found out there were others even older than I was! I filled out my application, turned it in, and was accepted. I thank my husband for being supportive and helping me with the funds needed and taking care of the family while I was away.
I was also very grateful to Vilma Ramirez, a Chilean activist who kept encouraging me to try and apply. I was surprised to learn that of the 149 North Americans comprising the 19th Venceremos Brigade, some fifteen were senior citizens. The 1988 Brigade to Cuba ranged in age from fifteen to eighty-one.
After Cuba's victory, so many activists wanted to see what a socialist country would be like. The Venceremos Brigade, a left wing solidarity organization, developed work brigades to give grassroots organizers and activists an opportunity to go to Cuba to work together with the people there and experience first hand their way of living. It was such a golden opportunity to work, study, and learn about global liberation struggles and socialism in Cuba. There are still Brigades going to Cuba today.
Under the slogan "No More Contras Anywhere," the Brigade represented a broad cross section of students, workers, professionals, and retirees from all over the U.S. The gender breakdown included seventy two women and sixty nine men; the ethnic composition was sixty two whites and seventy-nine people of color (thirty-eight Latinos, thirty-two Blacks, three Middle Easterners, three Native Americans, and three Asians). The wide array of Brigadistas, however, was unified in their praise and admiration of Cuba's concerted efforts through self determination, its continuous struggle against the vestiges of racism and colonialism, and its effort to build a solid foundation for nurturing tomorrow's new socialist men and women.
The host organization, Cuban Institute for Friendship (ICAP), was instrumental in setting up tours and meetings, handling logistics, and recruiting speakers, translators, and camp work crew who were all exemplary hosts/ hostesses and emissaries of friendship.
An unexpected highlight for many Brigadistas, especially the Blacks, was the brief encounters with the highly esteemed, recognized folk hero, Black revolutionary Assata Shakur. Seeing Shakur and her daughter looking well and strong was heartwarming. Another delight for us was the quick meeting with Don Rojas, the former press secretary for Grenada's beloved martyred Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, on the last night of our stay. [1]

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