Forty years after the Cuban revolution, Consuelo Elba Alvarez and Katia de Llano discussed their experiences within the communist guerrilla movement at Willey Hall on Saturday.
“Cuba: From Two Perspectives” was the title of the afternoon-long event. It was sponsored by the University’s political science department and moderated by department associate professor August Nimtz, who specializes in social movements and Marxist studies.
During a portion of the program titled “Women in the Cuban Revolution,” De Llano — who was 15 when she joined the Communist Party in 1956 — explained in Spanish to the audience of more than 50 that “they never had a doubt that they would unseat the (then-Cuban) dictatorship.”
Using a translator, De Llano said within a 6-year period under Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, 30,000 government dissenters had disappeared.
Employing Cuban writer and independence leader Jose Marti for inspiration, De Llano explained that their resistance movement was heavily galvanized by Marti’s words: “To witness a crime is to be an accomplice to it.”
De Llano further explained that in her estimation, “The triumph of the Cuban revolution took the U.S. by surprise.”
The second speaker, Alvarez, said she knew Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara — who would later become Fidel Castro’s second in command — but in her young eyes, there was little distinction between him and the other guerrilla leaders.
Alvarez was only 13 years old when she joined the movement in 1955. As a young girl, Alvarez had few, if any, positive impressions of communists. But that changed over time.
She said women of the resistance received overall respect from the men and leaders generally enforced strict rules within the organization.
Addressing the audience’s questions, many of which centered on ideological issues and contemporary Cuban concerns, De Llano stated that an effort should be put in place to “teach young people how to be responsible rather than giving them (political) slogans.”
While highlighting Cuban positive social efforts, like the literacy campaign beginning in 1961, De Llano said the high number of abortions, which are free along with contraceptives, is a current Cuban problem.
In answering one question from the audience, De Llano said, “I do think there could be another revolution (somewhere) … Let’s put it this way — I really hope that the world doesn’t stay the same as it is today.”
The program’s second portion was a talk titled “U.S.-Cuban Relations after Elian (Gonzalez),” given by St. John’s University professor Gary Prevost and University of Havana professor Esteban Morales.
Saturday’s presentations proved timely. Amid human rights violations alleged by Cuban refugees — perpetrated by Castro — the U.S. Senate arrived at final voting stages last week to lift the full trade embargo imposed on Cuba in 1962.
Such a lift would follow President Clinton’s restoration of direct passenger flights to Cuba from the United State in 1998.
— Wire reports contributed to this article
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