Title image taken on April 19, 1961, shows the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces supported by T-34 tanks in counterattack against CIA-trained mercenary troops near Playa Girón during the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Rumlin)
1. The Bay of Pigs Invasion
This past week marked 60 years since a decisive battle took place in Cuba that resonates to this day. Determined to overthrow the popular democratic revolution that ejected the U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, President John F. Kennedy ordered an invasion of Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) by 1400 mercenary troops trained by the CIA. It took mere hours for Cuban troops to defeat the invasion. To this day the U.S. remains stymied in its efforts to break the socialist revolution on this small Third World island less than 150 miles from Florida.
Cuba has survived despite relentless hostility from the United States that has included an economic embargo proclaimed by President Kennedy in February 1962 — the longest such embargo in history. The United Nations estimates the embargo has cost the Cuban economy $130 billion dollars.
Cuba will present a Resolution to the U.N. General Assembly on June 23, 2021, calling for an end to the U.S. embargo and blockade. In 2019 the U.N. condemned the embargo by a vote of 187-3 — a clear statement of world opinion although the vote was not binding on the U.S.
Cuba has survived the embargo and all the hardships inflicted on the island because, despite U.S. propaganda, the revolution retains the overwhelming support of its people.
2. The 1961 Literacy Campaign
This month also marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Literacy Campaign that taught hundreds of thousands of Cubans to read and write. “The literacy campaign was the first big campaign of the revolution,” Griselda Aguilera explained. “It helped prepare Cuban workers and peasants for their responsibilities in running the country.” At age 7, Aguilera joined with 250,000 volunteers, many of them teenagers, who spread out across Cuba in the early days of the revolution to teach over 700,000 adults to read and write. Aguilera was the youngest person to participate as a teacher.
UNICEF reports the literacy rate in Cuba at 100% while a study conducted in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute on Literacy found that 14% of the U.S. adult population cannot read at a basic level.
Webinar Marks These 60th Anniversaries
On Wednesday this week a webinar was held on Zoom, organized by the International US-Cuba Normalization Conference Coalition with speakers on Cuba and the ongoing fight to end the embargo and blockade. It’s posted on Facebook by the National Network on Cuba.
You can watch the webinar below. Speakers discuss the Bay of Pigs (including a short video) and the Literacy Campaign, as well as the international campaign fighting to defend Cuba against the embargo and blockade. Car caravans are held weekly worldwide.
Also discussed during the webinar is Cuba’s work fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuba has several vaccine trials in progress with plans to vaccinate everyone on the island by year’s end, plus help poor nations with their vaccinations. Cuba has sent over 50 medical brigades to 40 countries during the pandemic.
The webinar launched a “Syringes for Cuba” campaign to aid in securing this essential tool for vaccinations. A worldwide shortage has caused the price of syringes to increase 10 times or greater.
The webinar co-chairs were:
- Claudia De La Cruz
Community Organizer and Co-Executive Director at The People’s Forum
- Manolo De Los Santos
Educator and Co-Executive Director at The People’s Forum
The webinar speakers included:
- Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta
Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations
- Lianys Torres Rivera
Cuban Ambassador to the United States
- Peter Kornbluh
Senior Analyst and Director of Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects, National Security Archive
- Mary-Alice Waters
President of Pathfinder Press
- Catherine Murphy
Founder and Director of The Literacy Project
- Juan Carlos Rodríguez
Cuban historian and researcher
Maestra: A Film about the 1961 Literacy Campaign
For a closer look at the Literacy Campaign, Maestra is an acclaimed documentary produced by filmmaker Catherine Murphy who spoke during the webinar above. She interviewed 50 women and 13 men, many in their 70s at the time they met, who had joined with over 250,000 youth who spanned across the farthest reaches of Cuba during the 1961 Literacy Campaign. Her 33-minute film can be purchased on DVD or viewed for free at Kanopy.com using either a public library card or university login to access.
The Kanopy website contains this description. “Narrated by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, Maestra (Spanish for teacher) explores the experiences of nine of the women who, as young girls, helped eradicate Cuban illiteracy within one year. Interweaving recent interviews, archival footage, and campaign photos, this lively documentary includes one of the first Cubans of her generation to call herself a feminist and one of the first openly proud members of Cuba’s LGBT community. With wit and spirit, all recall negotiating for autonomy and independence in a culture still bound by patriarchal structures.”
This is the trailer for Maestra:
Title image by Rumlin is licensed under Creative Commons [License].
Other images are promotions for the webinar and Maestra film.
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