Members of the Venceremos Brigade with Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel
Members of the Venceremos Brigade with Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel

The Venceremos Brigade & the Necessity of Solidarity with Cuba

The Venceremos Brigade (VB) is the youngest and oldest Cuba solidarity delegation in the US. By that I mean the VB, whose name means the “We Shall Overcome” Brigade, is the longest running US-Cuba solidarity delegation in existence with a base of brigadistas who are predominantly African, Indigenous, Chicanx, poor, working class, queer, and trans young people.  

The Venceremos Brigade was formed in 1969 by a group of US-based students and activists who wanted to show their solidarity with the Cuban revolution while also challenging imperialist US policy towards Cuba, including the genocidal economic blockade and the US government’s ban on travel to the island. For over 50 years the Venceremos Brigade has brought more than 10,000 people from the US to Cuba to witness the truth about the revolution firsthand and to engage in active solidarity with the Cuban people. 

The VB is first and foremost about engaging in a model of anti-imperialist direct action as an act of international solidarity with Cuba and in resistance to the attempts of the US empire to re-colonize that island nation. As people living in the belly of the beast, participants of the Venceremos Brigade are pushed to develop a clear understanding of our responsibility as US citizens and as organizers in social justice movements to rise up for and defend nations on the front lines of resistance to Western imperialism. In order to do that, we engage in travel to Cuba to actively challenge anti-human US restrictions on travel to the island – restrictions that have created an escalating immigration crisis for decades. When we get to Cuba, we work side by side with Cuban comrades, traditionally in the act of agricultural work like tending fields and harvesting food, in order to engage them on a people to people level and learn from them firsthand about the Cuban revolution and the day to day impact of the US blockade. We then use what we’ve learned to spread the truth about Cuba far and wide while also working to integrate its lessons into our movements in the United Snakes.

The Venceremos Brigade’s work of organizing travel to Cuba was interrupted, along with the rest of the world, in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Cuba mobilized an army of doctors to support the fight against the virus around the world and also went into an extended lockdown where the health and safety of its population was prioritized even in the face of devastating economic consequences. The US played at a half-ass quarantine in which most of the population was abandoned while also escalating its deadly sanctions on Cuba (and Iran, and Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan, and Nicaragua, and Venezuela and so many more nations) in an attempt to hit the Cuban people while they were down. The end result was that there was no safe way for us to organize a brigade to Cuba for two years, the first time we didn’t make our annual trip in the history of the Venceremos Brigade. The work of the VB, however, did not stop.

We have spent the past three years developing the next generation of collective VB leadership in order to ensure that the work of the Venceremos Brigade will continue for 50 more years to come – until the blockade falls and beyond. We have prioritized mass political education work like our Cuba, Landback, and Environmental Justice conference held in November 2021 and our monthly national calls that bring brigadistas from Venceremos Brigades past and present together in one space for teachings and exchange about Cuba’s present and history. We have also been actively engaged in organizing and fundraising for the 51st Venceremos Brigade, including publishing and selling a collection of essays written by brigadistas reflecting on their experiences in Cuba. We are excited to announce the 51st Venceremos Brigade will be happening in December 2022 and an application is launching shortly.

Being a brigadista with the Venceremos Brigade is about being in active, principled solidarity with and in service to the Cuban people and their revolution.  It is about defending the right of Cubans – and of all people – to self-determination: to decide for themselves what kind of society and system they will live in and to construct that vision in peace. It is about understanding that the primary enemy facing our people and movements for justice in the world today is the deadly beast of Western imperialism, led by the US empire. It is about understanding that those of us living within that empire have a responsibility to humanity and to the rest of life on this planet to fight it in any way we can. And lastly it is about understanding that the Cuban revolution is not a threat to be eradicated, but a beautiful model to learn from, defend, and iterate upon in order to win struggles for justice in the belly of the beast and beyond. 

As the Venceremos Brigade we demand:

  • The end of the US blockade on Cuba
  • The end of the US military occupation of Guantanamo including shutting that concentration camp down for good
  • The removal of Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism
  • The end of all US restrictions on travel to Cuba
  • And the end of all US-led and US-backed attempts to overthrow the Cuban revolution

Long live the Cuban people and their revolution.

Long live the Venceremos Brigade and the global Cuba solidarity movement.

Long live international solidarity.

The organization of and solidarity between oppressed people’s movements for justice around the world will defeat imperialism once and for all.

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Onyesonwu Chatoyer is an African woman marooned in the United States, organizing to defeat capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. She is an organizer with the All-African People's Revolutionary Party and the All-African Women's Revolutionary Union, an editor with Hood Communist, and also serves on the national committee of the Venceremos Brigade.