NEW YORK — Some 80 people participated in a spirited march and rally in East Harlem Aug. 27, protesting the over 60-year U.S. embargo of Cuba. The rally met at the First Spanish Methodist Church, known as the People’s Church, and marched to the “Dos Alas” mural seven blocks away.
The mural, dedicated to friendship between the peoples of Cuba and Puerto Rico, features paintings of pioneering Puerto Rican independence fighter Pedro Albizu Campos and of the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, along with a stanza from a poem by “Lola” Rodriguez de Tio, which refers to Cuba and Puerto Rico “as two wings of the same bird.” Opponents of the Cuban Revolution have defaced the mural several times. As the event was closing a team of volunteers began repairing the most recent damage.
The event also protested FBI harassment of participants in a recent Puerto Rican solidarity brigade to Cuba and celebrated the life of Frank Velgara, a long-time New York activist in defense of the Cuban Revolution and for Puerto Rican independence, who died the day before after a long illness.
Milagros Rivera, president of the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba in Puerto Rico, spoke to a rally at the end of the march by phone from Puerto Rico. She said that more than 30 people had been contacted by FBI agents seeking to interrogate them, including participants in the brigade, friends and family, and other activists. “No one is required to speak to the FBI. We are telling everyone to contact us right away if the FBI visits or calls them,” she said.
John Melendez from El Frente Independista Boricua pointed at the mural and told participants, “no one can tell the Puerto Rican community who our heroes are.” Other speakers included Pastor Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé of the People’s Church; Estela Vasquéz, retired executive vice president of Local 1199 SEIU in New York; Ike Nahem from the Cuba Sí Coalition; Marina Ortiz, from East Harlem Preservation; Gail Walker and Rosemari Mealy from IFCO/Pastors for Peace; and Jaime Mendieta from Casa de las Américas.
Similar successful protests against Washington’s economic war against Cuba took place in Miami, Chicago and other cities.