The legacy of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro lives on not only in the hearts and deeds of his country’s people, but for millions across the globe who revere him as much as he is in that Spanish-speaking nation.
Such were the sentiments shared last night as Barbadians gathered with their Cuban and other Caribbean counterparts in the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Horatio Cooke Auditorium for a panel discussion themed Reflections on Fidel.
Castro, who in 1959 successfully led revolutionary fighters into the streets of Cuba’s capital, Havana, following a guerrilla war against dictatorship, died last November at the age of 90. He had led the nation for 52 years, taking it from being a largely impoverished society with wealth in the hands of a few, to a country which today leads the world in health care and education, among many others.
In testimony to the lasting effects of Castro, the NUPW, the second largest trade union in Barbados, last night officially became the first union and latest member of a Caribbean organization spawned by Castro, the Caribbean Chapter of the International Network in Defence of Humanity.
Coordinator of that group, David Comissiong, explained that its formation was the brainchild of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Castro, whose aim was “to bring together outstanding intellectuals, academics, artists, along with social activists, into a worldwide organization that would stand up for humanity, that would defend human values, and human wherever they might be suffering”.
Following the NUPW’s induction into the group, Barbadian Pan-Africanist and social activist David Denny formally received from Cuban Ambassador Francisco Pena, Cuba’s Medal of Friendship, and subsequent remarks by the Barbadian proved to be further evidence of Castro’s international legacy.
So moved was Denny that he made clear his view of the high ranking of this honour, the order for which was signed by Castro’s brother and current leader of Cuba, Raul Castro.
Denny said the medal meant a lot “because this is not just an award where you will receive an honour from Her Majesty the Queen [of England] or her family”.
“This is a very important award . . . from a country that has working class power; that has defended the poor and powerless people of this world. This is an award from a country that has defeated the [Apartheid] South African government to create [better] conditions for many African states.
“So this is an award that relates to liberation, . . . coming from a government and people that have made serious sacrifices to defend the rights of the poor and powerless people of the world,” he declared.
Cikiah Thomas, a Jamaican living in Canada, who is the current president of Global African Congress, condemned what he sees as a Caribbean tendency not to pay homage and honour outstanding leaders.
“But I think with the death of Fidel, and Fidel’s contribution to world politics, this history will begin to change because there is no greater Caribbean personality, public or private figure, that has made such a wonderful contribution than Fidel Castro,” he said.
Comissiong told the gathering that the most memorable of his meetings with Fidel Castro was on Emancipation Day of August 1998, when they shared a speech at the Bussa Emancipation Statue.
He spoke of Castro’s curiosity about the history of Bussa, and how the Cuban revolutionary leader had advised that the future struggle would be a battle of ideas, and the revolutionaries would seek guidance in the actions of men like General Bussa.
“That is why I remain convinced today that the Bussa rebellion and heroic stories of Nanny Grigg hold the key to the sense of authentic cultural identity of Barbadian people,” Comissiong said. “It is in that Bussa rebellion that the authentic root of Barbadian nationhood is to be found.”