Fidel Castro & the Cuban Revolution

Saturday, December 31, 2016

© 2016 Robert C. Laycock

Just Sayin'

A Blog by

Bob Laycock

Typewriter courtesy of Alan Seaver

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Cuba Provides Free Medical Education

Cuba trains foreign medical students free of charge — including students from the United States. The Latin American Medical School (ELAM) opened in Havana in 1999 and is accredited by the World Health Organization. Scholarships include full tuition, books, dormitory housing, three meals per day, and a stipend running a little under $4 a day. The course of study runs 6 years. People of color, women and low-income persons are especially encouraged to apply.

All students trained at ELAM are expected to commit to serving communities and countries that lack adequate medical care. U.S. students on scholarship must commit to practicing in minority and low-income income communities in the United States, or as an alternative they can serve on one of Cuba's medical teams working around the world.

Upon graduation, U.S. students returning home must pass a series of U.S. Medical Licensing Exams (USLME) before they can practice here. They must also complete a residency program here.

The following videos describe this work including extensive interviews with participating students.

This brief video just posted by teleSUR English in November 2016 presents a brief overview of Cuba's free medical education program — now up to 80,000 graduates internationally.

This report was broadcast by MSNBC.

This report was produced by Russia's RT Network.

Extended interviews with U.S. students studying medicine in Cuba (part 1 of 2).

Extended interviews with U.S. students studying medicine in Cuba (part 2 of 2).

Cuba & the U.S. Black Community

The 1959 revolution in Cuba took place as the Civil Rights struggle in the United States was heating up. A cornerstone of the Cuban Revolution was a head-on assault against racism in that country. It was a huge inspiration to U.S. Blacks that the revolution was able to overthrow the privileged and mostly white Cuban ruling class, and with it U.S. domination of the island. Fidel Castro and his movement were heroes. They demonstrated that victory is possible.

In September 1960 Fidel came to New York City to speak before the UN General Assembly. Tensions were building between Cuba and United States, so Cuba found itself harassed and ultimately evicted from its rooms at the Hotel Shelburne in downtown Manhattan.

The delegation then received and accepted an invitation to stay at the Hotel Theresa in the heart of the Black community in Harlem. The U.S. government was horrified at the prospect that the Cubans and Black community would rub shoulders and find common cause. Suddenly hotels in New York were tripping over themselves with offers to welcome the Cuban delegation back downtown, some for free. Cuba declined.

Fidel described the experience while addressing the General Assembly on September 26, 1960.

When we were forced to leave one of the hotels in this city, and came to the United National Headquarters while efforts were being made to find accommodation for us, a hotel, a humble hotel of this city, a Negro hotel in Harlem, offered to rent us rooms.  The reply came when we were speaking to the Secretary General.  

Nevertheless, an official of the State Department did all in his power to prevent our staying at that hotel. At that moment, as though by magic, hotels began appearing all over New York. Hotels which had previously refused lodgings to the Cuban delegation offered us rooms, even free of charge.  Out of simple reciprocity we accepted the Harlem hotel.  We felt then that we had earned the right to be left in peace.  But peace was not accorded us.

Once in Harlem, since it was impossible to prevent us from living there, the slander and defamation campaigns began. They began spreading the news all over the world that the Cuban delegation had lodged in a brothel. For some humble hotel in Harlem, a hotel inhabited by Negroes of the United States, must obviously be a brothel.

To make matters worse, from the perspective of U.S. government, Fidel and his delegation held meetings with many people while staying at the Hotel Theresa — including Malcolm X ( picture at This was utterly intolerable!

In the end U.S. fears were realized. The Cubans and Black community did realize their common cause. Malcolm X and the Black community saw clearly that Cuba was a solid ally. The Militant newspaper quoted Malcolm X as saying, "Premier Castro has come out against lynching, which is more than President Eisenhower has done. Castro has also taken a more open stand for civil rights for Black Cubans." The same Militant article reprints a description of the meeting that appeared in the New York Citizen-Call on September 24, 1960.

This meeting, followed by a strong condemnation of racism by Fidel before the General Assembly, cemented a relationship between the U.S. Black community and Cuba that continues today.

In 1995 Fidel returned to New York to again address the United Nations. While in New York he returned to Harlem and spoke to a full house at the Abyssinian Baptist Church where he received a wildly enthusiastic reception. He made note that before coming to speak at Harlem he changed back into his military fatigues after wearing a business suit at the UN.

His entire speech in Harlem can be seen in the next 8 videos.

This video combines footage showing portions of Fidel's time in New York in 1960.

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 1 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 2 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 3 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 4 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 5 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 6 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 7 of 8)

Fidel Castro speaks in Harlem, 1995 (Part 8 of 8)

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