The Venceremos Brigade was formed in 1969 as a means of showing solidarity with the Cuban struggle and challenging U.S. policies against that country. For the past 35 years, we’ve been sending people from the U.S. down to Cuba in an attempt to break down legal yet inhuman and immoral barriers and restrictions set up by our government. Since the beginning of the Brigade, we have never asked for a license to travel to Cuba and we never will. We believe it’s our right to see Cuba firsthand, interact, and learn from her. We may face fines and penalties for doing so but we believe, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Just a few weeks ago, over 75 brigadistas returned from a two-week stay in Cuba in open defiance of U.S. travel restrictions. They stayed a week in Santiago and another one in Havana. During their stay, they visited orphanages, homes for the elderly, cooperatives, clinics, and schools.

They met with Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Union of Communist Youth, veterans, internationalist fighters, the families of the five Cuban heroes, and social workers doing preventive HIV/AIDS work. They helped out in the renovation of the Nguyen Van Troi Primary School in Santiago and the construction of rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and schools. But most importantly, they witnessed the lives and conditions of Cuban people, something so distorted and lied about in our country.

Now the brigade members have come back with the truth about Cuba, something so different, so contradictory to a Bush speech, a news channel segment, or other U.S. government anti-Cuba propaganda. That’s why there’s still a travel ban on Cuba: they don’t want us to see what Cuba’s really about. The travel ban is complementary to the misinformation campaign our government has led against Cuba for over 40 years.

This is why we who stand with Cuba must continue to send people from the U.S. to that island. Send those who don’t know much about Cuba there to learn the truth. Send those who are conscious of the struggle there so that they can better defend Cuba and see how those revolutionary ideas are implemented day-by-day.

If the majority of the people in this country were to truly know how the embargo has hurt the Cuban people, the embargo would ultimately be lifted. If they knew the true reasons why the U.S. has imprisoned the five Cuban heroes and the reason why they came here, not only would they be free, but many extremists in South Florida would be taking their place behind bars, and a war on terrorism would cease being simply rhetoric and would actually save lives. If they knew the Cuban people’s struggle, they would stand in complete solidarity and challenge our government’s stance on Cuba.

That’s why we who support the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people must continue to speak the truth about Cuba, about its example to the world. We must continue to tell the story of a people who 51 years ago stood up heroically and took back their country.

Diego Iniguez-Lopez is a member of the Venceremos Brigade. He can be reached at