1st Venceremos Brigade

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1st Venceremos Brigade


Six members of the first Venceremos Brigade, who returned last week from eight weeks of touring and harvesting sugar cane in Cuba, faced the television lights and tattersol pants of the establishment press in a small coffee house near Central Square yesterday.

Thursday, 600 feet of film, tapes and journals they had collected for a book to be published by Simon and Schuster and left with a Canadian professor were confiscated by U. S. customs when the professor tried to bring them over the border. Brigade members claim they themselves were harassed, and much of their literature and souvenirs confiscated, when they crossed the border from Canada last week at Calais, Maine.

Six hundred more Brigade members left Canada for Cuba last week to help harvest the crop. Their goal, they say, is to help Cuba achieve sugar production of 10 million tons, which will allow the government to purchase harvesting machines and free the people for "more meaningful" work.

They may not have found the work meaningful, but they said in their press release, "Many of us felt we were doing truly purposeful work for the first time in our lives ... Accustomed to finding our jobs alienating and destructive, we grew to understand the dedication to work of a people united for their common good."

Michael Kazin '70 said the Cuban people love their work so much that city people volunteered their free time and weekends to go out into the fields and harvest the crops. Even Fidel Castro, he said, spends four hours each day cutting cane, and "cuts like hell."

"In the American press you read of Cubans working extra hours and they give you the impression they're being forced to do it," Kazin said. "On Sunday in Havana, I saw people joyously laughing and singing and planting coffee trees."

While Brigade members wanted to talk about how impressed they were with the Cuban economic, medical, and educational systems, the newsmen and newswomen were more interested in their views on revolution and similar conduct in the United States.

Dorothy Devine said, "I was revolutionary before I went to Cuba, and I'm a revolutionary now." To which Kate Hickler '70 added, "Seeing Cuba gave us all a sense of hope."

"The job I see for myself now is not to pick up a gun," Miss Devine reassured newsmen. "That wouldn't be a revolution but a coup d'etat, if the people didn't understand what we were doing."

Mike Landis said, "I used to shout 'Off the Pig,' but now I realize that it's not the pigs' fault-not the people's fault. I don't even think Rocke-feller is an ogre. It's just the system we're under, and a matter of convincing people it's not the best one. I hope we can change things as smoothly as possible."

Asked if she wanted to bring freedom to the United States "the same way it was brought to Cuba" (ie. through revolution), Miss Hickler quoted from the Declaration of Independence.[1]

Dick Cluster;[2]

Dick Cluster, center
So we flew to Mexico City—the only air link to Havana in the Western Hemisphere at the time—where we were photographed by Mexican intelligence officers and had “Mexico D.F. CUBA” stamped in large purple letters on our passports so our transgression would not go unnoticed at home. And so eventually we returned, three months later, via Cuban freighter to the Canadian Atlantic port of St. John. In between, we cut cane, asked, listened, looked and argued (mostly with each other).
We lived at the Campamento Brigada Venceremos in rural Havana province near the Matanzas border, flat cane-growing land since its deforestation long ago in the days of the Spanish colony. We lived in canvas tents and gathered in palm thatch meeting and mess halls, the 216 of us and 70 Cuban Young Communists selected to work with us and teach us about the Revolution. In our final two weeks, they and we toured the island by schoolbus, staying in other work camps and recently constructed college dorms.

In 1970 Marc Brodine from St Louis, Missouri, was a member of the first Venceremos Brigade to Cuba.[3]


  1. [http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1970/2/21/venceremos-brigade-saw-joy-in-cuba/Harvard crimson, Venceremos Brigade Saw Joy in Cuba By MICHAEL E. KINSLEY, February 21, 1970]
  2. [http://revista.drclas.harvard.edu/book/venceremos-brigade Revista, HOME / THE SIXTIES (WINTER 2009) / CUBA: A VIEW FROM THE ISLAND / The Venceremos Brigade, A 60s Political Journey By Dick Cluster]
  3. THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF COMMUNISM IN 1972 (Venceremos Brigade) PART 2, hearings before the Committee on Internal Security 92nd Congress oct 16-19, 1972 pages 8136-8138