Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and the Cuban government have emphatically spoken out in defense of the struggle of Puerto Ricans for freedom from U.S. colonial rule.
“Even before our independence, there had been bonds between Puerto Rico and Cuba,” Castro explained in a May 19, 1977, interview with ABC correspondent Barbara Walters. “The Cuban Revolutionary party, which was the party of independence founded by [José] Martí, comprised Cuba and Puerto Rico.”
“Police beat me because I was participating in a demonstration to support the independence of Puerto Rico,” Castro told Walters, recalling when he was a University of Havana student in the late 1940s. “Some North Americans say that the problem is that the majority of Puerto Ricans do not want independence. Well, 20 or 30 years before U.S. independence, many North Americans did not want the independence of the U.S.”
“We have sacred historical, moral, and spiritual bonds with Puerto Rico. And we’ve told them [Washington] that as long as there’s one Puerto Rican who defends the idea of independence, as long as there’s even one, we have the moral and political duty of defending the idea of Puerto Rico’s independence,” Castro said in a speech to Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power later that year. “We’ve made this very clear to them, that this is a matter of principle, and to us, principles are not to be negotiated!”
In his closing speech to the founding Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba on Dec. 22, 1975, Castro discussed his reaction to Washington’s “indignant” criticism of Cuba for sponsoring a Conference of Solidarity with Puerto Rico earlier that year.
“What kind of people do they think we are?” he said. “This is the new Cuba, and this is a different country! And until they get this fact into their heads, I cannot see any possibility of improving relations, because we shall never desert our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters even if there are no relations with the United States for 100 years.”
Many Puerto Ricans active in the fight to throw off the U.S. capitalist rulers’ colonial yoke look to the Cuban Revolution as an example to emulate. Long-time independence fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda had just finished writing a poem when he heard the news that Fidel Castro had died in November 2016. “In the name of Puerto Rico and of all those your example will continue to inspire in the struggle for a better world,” Cancel Miranda said, “I gave the poem the title, ‘Thank You, Fidel.’”
The poem begins:
I give thanks to life
for my Boricua skies
my soul, nationalist
my belief, Fidelista
I give thanks to life
For the courage to fight,
For the courage to confront
the imperialist beast.