Nelson Mandela memorial held in New York City

Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro

On Feb. 8, 2014, the July 26 Coalition hosted an event called Mandela Presente! at Riverside Church in New York City. This event was organized to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela as well as explicitly state the role Cuba played in defeating apartheid in South Africa.

Speakers included Rodolfo Reyes, Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations and a veteran of the Angolan War, who recounted Cuba's internationalist commitment to the fight for African liberation. In addition, a representative of South Africa spoke honoring Mandela's legacy and gratitude towards Cuba. 

The surprise guest and keynote speaker was Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Cuban revolutionary leaders Vilma Espin and Raul Castro. Mariela Castro Espin is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana and an activist for LGBT rights in Cuba. Castro Espin spoke of Cuba’s strategic orientation towards Africa as a way to combat the racist legacy that colonialism, neoliberalism and capitalism create and impose upon oppressed people. Cuba’s importance in fighting for and supporting the liberation of Angola, South Africa and Namibia demonstrates its commitment to uniting with oppressed people in fighting capitalism and colonialism.

Castro Espin also emphasized that Cuba’s revolution cannot be considered complete or successful until all oppressed people across the globe have been liberated. In Spanish, the word “presente” means that the presence of that person or nation lives among those who call upon it.  Mandela recognized Cuba’s key role in ending apartheid and he fought for socialism in South Africa with Cuba’s continued support. Mandela Presente! Cuba Presente! Sudafrica Presente! La revolucion vive!


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