Led by the slogan “Cuba Works and Lives”, the Havana May Day 2022 parade brought together more than 700,000 workers and students from across Havana, demonstrating both a joyous celebration and a triumphant victory for the Cuban Revolution.
More than 5.5 million people across Cuba celebrated May Day in their respective provinces, for a total of 6 million people at events over the weekend.
It’s a special celebration due to the parade being canceled for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. Cuba’s May Day parade is historically the largest in the world, and this year it returned with a roar in one of the biggest turnouts in years.
Severe fuel shortages due to the US blockade are making transportation difficult – even so, people from every province in Cuba have traveled to take part in this historic celebration of International Workers’ Day.
Headlining the celebration were Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Army General Raúl Castro, Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC) Secretary General Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, and many other Cuban leaders .
As we walked early in the morning through Havana towards Plaza de la Revolución, we were joined by workers and their unions, teachers, students, soldiers, retirees and all sectors of Cuban society. . The atmosphere was one of optimism and joyful energy to finally be back to celebrate May Day.
At the head of the march was a gigantic 100-foot-long banner, which read “Cuba Lives and Works”, followed by 50,000 doctors and scientists involved in the fight against COVID, and thousands of worker contingents in a mass solid and enthusiastic.
When asked how it felt to be back on the streets after two years, 18-year-old Cuban Daniela replied, “Well, it’s the first time I celebrate May Day because I am a university student and I feel happy. To be honest, it makes me feel good. I don’t know how to explain it, you have to experience it. You have to be here from early morning and walk until May 1 to understand what it feels like!
About the US blockade, she said: “I love my country very much, I adore it and all the problems we have must be solved inside the country. I don’t think the United States should interfere.
The fact that millions of workers were able to demonstrate, even with the persistence of the pandemic, was only made possible by Cuba’s massive vaccination of the population and the dedication of Cuban scientists and medical personnel. This year’s May Day march is not just a celebration of Cuba’s workers and their revolution, but a celebration of Cuba’s renowned scientific and biotechnological prowess.
After unleashing the avalanche of 243 economic sanctions under the Trump administration – and maintained by the Biden administration – the US government believed it could destabilize the Cuban Revolution. However, the unity of millions of workers and students in Havana today, pouring into the streets in triumphant celebration of their Revolution, exposes this belief as nothing more than a fantasy.
A revolution dedicated to youth
Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, secretary general of the CTC, had announced that May Day this year is dedicated, “in a particular way to our glorious youth, to young people as an element of continuity”.
At the Plaza, he said: “The international context in which we are developing this celebration of the proletariat is complex and stimulating. The hostility is growing and the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on us by the United States government, the main obstacle to our development programs, is escalating to the extreme, as well as a pandemic which maintains negative impacts in the economic, social and labor fields… Faced with this panorama, Cuba does not stop. It implements policies to strengthen its economic actors and the primary sectors of its productive base, the overall transformation of its neighborhoods and the reduction of people in vulnerable situations.
“We will not bend. Cuba lives and works for its present and for its future. We will defend our socialism as we did 61 years ago in the sands of Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs). For our heroes and martyrs. For Fidel and for Raúl. For continuity. For the younger generations. For our country. Let’s go ahead with everything.
“Long live International Workers’ Day!” Always forward until victory!
The dedication to Cuban youth is seen in all sectors of Cuban society, but especially in the management of COVID-19. Cuba was the first country to vaccinate children two years and older, and under the protection of a highly vaccinated society, in November Cuba opened all schools and daycare centers.
In stark contrast, the US government’s for-profit capitalist approach to COVID-19: banning mask mandates in schools, forcing children back to school and workers back to work despite the low vaccination rates across the country, and so on now has the country well on the road to 1 million COVID-19 deaths.
A fine demonstration of international solidarity
In a massive show of international solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, thousands of solidarity activists joined the historic march, coming from various leftist and progressive movements around the world. The international bloc, which represented this international presence in the march, was led by the 50-foot-long banner of the International People’s Congress delegation which read, “Build the future, break the blockade!”
From the International People’s Assembly came the North American Youth Brigade, made up of approximately 100 young leaders representing various social justice movements from across the United States.
Additionally, more than 1,500 delegates from 25 countries traveled to Cuba for May Day and participated in the traditional International Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba, which has been held every May 2 since the first event in 1994. They also visited several workplaces: the biotechnology industry, a bus, a production plant, a power plant, a non-state cooperative, among others.
Speaking on the importance of solidarity, Joshua Carson, a member of the Socialism and Liberation Party and participant in the Youth Brigade, said: “This type of solidarity is important because it is a visual means for the Cuban people to know that there is resistance inside the empire. They are not alone in this fight, and this period of suffering – which began in the special period of the 1990s – will end in one day.
For those of us young people who traveled to Cuba for the first time on this historic May Day, it was beyond our wildest dreams – as we walked we saw a celebration of hundreds of thousands of workers and we felt the dynamism of the Cuban people’s commitment to their Revolution and socialism.
Featured image: May 1, 2022 in Cuba. Credit: @BrunoRguezP