A highlight of this year’s Cuba Week celebration by the Brunswick-Trinidad (Cuba) Sister City Association was the visit of Canadian academic and Cuba activist Isaac Saney, who lectured at area colleges and previewed his documentary film, “Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keepers: Cuba and Southern African Liberation.”

Under the association’s auspices, Saney discussed Cuba before an Africana studies class at Bowdoin College and with Latin American history students at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. He also spoke to an audience of community and college people in Brunswick, about Cuba’s long struggle for racial justice.

He also showed “Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keepers” to area people interested in Cuba. The film will soon be available in DVD form.

Saney’s visit was part of a weeklong series of cultural and entertainment events marking the sister city group’s annual celebration of “Cuba Week.” The Maine Cuba solidarity group Let Cuba Live helped to arrange the visit.

Through interviews with participants and depictions of military action, Saney’s film demonstrated Cuba’s central role in blocking apartheid South Africa’s destabilization campaign against newly independent states along its northern border.

The rebuff of South African forces in the late 1980s shattered that country’s regional military dominance and contributed mightily to Namibian independence and the unraveling of the apartheid South African regime.

Three central themes recurred throughout Isaac Saney’s presentations.

Cuba’s 1959 revolution was seen as a culmination of struggles for national independence and social justice which intensified during the second half of the 19th century and revived periodically throughout subsequent decades when Cuba languished under U.S. hegemony. Saney specially emphasized the role of Jose Marti, who joined national liberation, rights for all, and Latin American unity into a single revolutionary stream.

Saney also highlighted the struggle for racial justice as central to Cuba’s revolutionary process, evidenced by slave revolts during the 19th century, ex-slaves fighting the wars for independence, and Jose Marti’s dedication to the cause of Black people.

Saney identified internationalism, and particularly Cuba’s outreach to Africa, as the hallmark of the Cuban revolution.

In his film and in discussions, Saney presented material confirming the crucial role 300,000 Cubans soldiers, medical doctors and teachers played in fighting apartheid. From 1975 through 1991 they joined with African peoples to overcome a racist military machine long supported by northern industrial powers.

South African propaganda at the time and historians since have covered up the significance of the 1987 victory of Cuban soldiers at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola that sent South African troops home. Some 2,000 Cubans died in Southern Africa.

“Saney’s passion for Cuba and its attempt to forge its own way to communal prosperity and social justice is shiningly clear,” George Elliott Clarke said in his review of Saney’s book “Cuba, Revolution in Motion,” published in 2004.
Isaac Saney teaches history at Dalhousie and St. Mary’s Universities, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has recently been named co-chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba.

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