"This May I was extremely privileged to have been the UNITE Wales regional delegate on the 2016 Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade to Cuba organised by Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) - and what an experience it was!
From meeting Cuban Trade Unionists; taking part in agricultural work on a Co-Operative Farm (using an actual machete to cut grass!); visiting the Che Guevara memorial; observing the awe inspiring spectacle that is the annual workers day parade; to being taught to Salsa dance in the street by a Committee of the Defence of the Revolution. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I am honoured to be able to tell.
Cuba is special for many reasons and not just the rum and cigars, but for the passion and pride the Cuban people have in spite of such adversity imposed on them by the illegal US blockade. Despite what you may have seen on TV or read in the newspapers recently the daily struggle in Cuba is still very real. Despite Obama becoming the first US President to visit the Island in nearly a century and despite the Rolling Stones performing to over half a million people in Havana recently the illegal blockade is still very much in place, denying Cubans access to basic machinery and goods.
Taking part in the agricultural work on the farms we got to see this first hand. Transport to the farms was in the back of open-top trucks or trailers on tractors and cutting grass was done by hand with machetes; manifestations of a lack of access of resources due to the blockade.
But Cuba is a socialist country. Everyone is given a home; everyone has access to free, world class healthcare; and education (up to masters’ level) is free to all not a privilege for the few. The affirmation to community values is unprecedented and incentives are social not monetary.
Listening to testimonials from other Countries around the world struggling with imperialist rule and illegal occupation at the International Meeting of Solidarity with
Cuba conference was moving and inspiring. Listening to the fight they face reinforced the need for global solidarity, the need to stand in unity with those fighting against oppression and extreme hardship. The Conference included distinguished guest speakers Salvador Valdes, Cuban Vice-President, Ulises Guilarte, CTC General Secretary, Ana Teresita Gonzalez, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and two of the Miami Five heroes, Gerardo Hernandez and Fernando González were in attendance.
Over 1,000 international trade unionists attended, with speakers including Maggie Ryan from the Unite the Union EC and international speakers from trade unions in Nigeria, Palestine, United States, Honduras, Brazil, Venezuela and many more contributed to the discussion.
I can honestly say that taking part in this solidarity brigade has given me a renewed enthusiasm to become increasingly active in Unite and to work alongside CSC to campaign to end the US blockade of Cuba once and for all, to return the illegally occupied Guantanamo Bay area to Cuba and to stop US intervention on the island.
I saw first-hand the achievements of the Revolution; world-class schools and hospitals despite being under blockade for over five decades, inspiring organic co-operatives, and proud communities determined to defend their independence from US intervention.
The Cubans made clear that Cuba needs international solidarity now more than ever, with the US changing its tactics rather than their goals. The support and solidarity from Unite and the British trade union movement is invaluable as we work together to end the blockade once and for all at this crucial time. The support of young members within the movement is crucial for future solidarity with the island, as Cuba continues to show that another world - where peoples’ needs are put before profit - is truly possible.
My affirmation to socialism and trade union values is even more strengthened… The fight goes on!
To read more about the Brigade, find out more about Cuba or the economic blockade, or to organise a visit, please visit