Casa reopens

By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Aug 15, 2010 9:51 PM

Franklin Flores, Nancy Cabrero
and Jaime Mendieta.
Photo: Roberto Mercado

In 1998, a well-known and popular New York City center for Latin American solidarity events, Casa de las Americas, was forced to close its doors due to high rent resulting from gentrification of the neighborhood and other issues.

Casa was not just any center for Latin American events. It was “the” place for events in solidarity with the Cuban revolution, where Latino/revolutionaries and all progressives could come for good food and drink, political discussion and revolutionary events, from art exhibits to forums.

Everyone on the left knew and respected its president at the time, Luis Miranda. Miranda was a longtime revolutionary and supporter of the Cuban revolution from the beginning. In Miranda’s photo collections, the pictures included many of him with beloved leader Fidel Castro. There was also a picture of Miranda with Che Guevara when he came to New York City. Despite having closed its doors, its legacy of Cuban Americans and Latinos/as who defend the Cuban revolution has continued up to the present.

On July 31, Casa de las Americas reopened with an amazing new office in El Barrio. This is a tremendous development as Casa de las Americas is the oldest Cuban organization in the U.S. that supports the normalization of the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. The news of its reopening does not surprise anyone who understands the tenacity of the Cuban people and their devotion to the Cuban revolution.

Casa’s new president, Nancy Cabrero, told WW: “It was always a primary goal of Casa to reopen. But one of the highlights related to Casa’s reopening was the outpouring of help offered by longtime Casa friends, compañeros and compañeras alike, who helped with construction, knocking down walls, plastering, painting, sanding and refinishing the wood floors, scrubbing, cleaning, and polishing. Organizations also helped spread the good news about Casa’s opening by reaching out to their list serves.

“Franklin Flores, Casa’s secretary of organization, and Jaime Mendieta, first vice president, (pictured here) led the committee that reopened Casa and worked tirelessly,” said Cabrero. She continued, “I knew that Casa’s reopening would be well attended but never imagined that we would have such an overwhelming response. It was so wonderful to welcome so many friends that we had not seen in a long time.”

Cabrero was unanimously voted into the position of president at one of Casa’s annual meetings in recognition of the role that women play in the Cuban revolution.

The ambassador to the Cuban Mission was a featured speaker at the opening of Casa and excerpts of that talk will be posted later.

One of the goals of Casa is to continue its work on freeing the Cuban Five. “This is one of our priorities,” said Cabrero. “We have encouraged people to use the International Free the Five website to write to Attorney General Eric Holder to seek freedom of the Five. Our campaign with the Wives Without Rights is bringing attention to the unjust incarceration of these five men and the inhumane treatment of Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva, who have been repeatedly denied visas to see their husbands for over 10 years.”

Casa is also working with several New York City Council members to pass a resolution on the case of the Cuban Five. Cabrero reported that a significant resolution drafted by union activists in support of the Five passed last week at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement convention in Las Vegas.

A statement issued by Casa de las Americas President Cabrero reads, “Today the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, at its 18th National Membership Convention held in Las Vegas, unanimously passed a resolution in support for the immediate granting of Humanitarian Visas for Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, two of the wives of the Cuban Five.

“On behalf of Casa de las Americas we would like to extend our deep appreciation to the members of LCLAA for their support in bringing this humanitarian issue concerning Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, wives of the U.S. imprisoned Cuban Five who have been denied visas to see their husbands in almost 12 years, to the floor of your annual convention. We are extremely grateful for the unanimous passage of the resolution in support of granting Olga and Adriana visas by the U.S. government to see their husbands,” stated Cabrero.

“Today LCLAA’s actions bring us one step closer to fulfilling our hopes that it reaches the ears of the U.S. State Department and the hearts of the American people and those who have the power to finally grant Olga and Adriana visas,” Cabrero concluded.

When the Cuban Five are finally freed, should they stop in New York on their way home to their beloved island, surely one stop they will make in the city is at Casa de las Americas, a piece of liberated territory in the U.S.

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