Every May 1 from 1961 to 2007, Fidel Castro gave a version of the same speech to much the same crowd, lauding Cuba’s independence from Yankee imperialism, its historic mission, and his citizens’ forbearance in the face of often-unbearable deprivation. In the crowd of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, the most visible band of people — those just behind the seated generals and the foreign dignitaries, pressed against retaining rails not far from Fidel’s podium — was a crush of university students in red shirts. Every year, students gathered on the quad the evening before May Day to listen to music, pass around bottles of rum, make signs and dance.

And as they marched from the university to the Plaza de la Revolución a few hours before dawn, a pulsing river of merry red-clad young people flooded the city streets, collecting more and more students at every block. At the plaza, they settled into a designated space at the front of the crowd. They were granted visibility because they were university students, yes, and Cuba’s free education system has always been one of Castro’s calling cards. But more important, they were photogenic, energetic and — most crucial of all — young. Whether they supported Fidel or not was beside the point. Appearance at these marches was mandatory, because their presence proved to the rolling Cuban TV cameras and the foreign press photographers that the revolution was not, as the rest of the crowd behind them often was, as old and gray as Fidel himself became...



Recent Articles

Date Title
10/21/14 From Havana, a Prominent Voice for Change
Miriam Leiva, The New York Times
10/21/14 Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people
Editorial, The Washington Post
10/20/14 Calling time on America's blockade of Cuba
Will Grant, BBC
10/20/14 Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola
Editorial, The New York Times
10/17/14 How Business Can Change Cuba
Tim Padgett, Businessweek
10/16/14 Rare Independent Group Aims to Open Debate in Cuba
Michael Weissenstein, AP
10/16/14 Cuba to introduce modern, more secure ID cards
EFE
10/15/14 Still Pondering U.S.-Cuba Relations, Fidel Castro Responds
Ernesto Lodoño, The New York Times
10/15/14 Fidel Castro reprints NY Times embargo editorial
AP, The Washington Post
10/14/14 As times change, Cuban exiles in the U.S. learn it’s possible to go home again
Stephen Wicary, The Globe and Mail
10/14/14 The Castros Are Responsible for Cuba’s Failures, Not the U.S.
Jorge Benitez, The New York Times
10/14/14 Democracy Can’t Take Root in Isolation
Chris Sabatini, The New York Times
10/14/14 U.S. Engagement With Cuba Is Worth the Risk
Ted Henken, The New York Times
10/14/14 Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba
Editorial, The New York Times
10/14/14 Cuba Doesn’t Deserve Normal Diplomatic Relations
Carlos Alberto Montaner, The New York Times