Julio Antonio Mella International Camp treasures several stories speaking for themselves on how it is possible when hundreds of people come together for a common cause as an exceptional witness to the great diversity of cultures, views and beliefs linked to the solidarity movement with Cuba.
Forty- two years from its foundation, this camp , the only one of its kind in the country, has welcome more than 100 000 brigades from over 80 nations.
Sergio Corrieri, who headed the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) for 18 years, was not wrong when he said that "the camp is Cuba’s face to the world".
Located in Guayabal, Caimito Township , the camp has 82 employees dedicated to its mission, which annually receive between 12 and 15 brigades (from 1 200 to 1 500 persons each), as well as friendship group from different countries.
"This has been the place where ICAP’s most important solidarity projects have taken placed in recent decades. It is the materialization of a vital idea of Commander in Chief when he wished Julio Antonio Mella brigade never stop its functions "said Kenia Serrano, ICAP’s current president.
"At the beginning it was intending to fulfill another goal, but this project has lasted over four decades, and for us it is a source of pride; it shows that international voluntary work brigades are still important.
"The fact that people around the world come to share with us what we have, our reality, even things that are still challenges, is a different way to know Cuba," Serrano said.
There is no other country like Cuba
The rooster crows seven times, later La Guantanamera song is played and the brigade start the day.
The brigade is officially established, and different activities come next . Later they participate in the Cuban night whose first food is outdoors.
At different times they get lectures on various topics, go to productive work in the camp or elsewhere in the city, visit historic sites and entities of economic or social interest and meet youngsters, fighters and members of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR),and Cuban Women Federation(FMC) ...
They also meet cultural personalities; attend the race for friendship in December and solidarity marches (the torches march and the May 1st parade). They are responsible for the cultural event in political ceremonies; they also organize collective birthdays and other activities in the House of Friendship.
The brigades visit a province for three days, and when they go to Havana city they have free time and decide where to go.
Given the brigade’s nationality , the final evening is known as an international, with food and costumes and traditional music.
"This is the house of Cuba’s friend . A mixture of cultures, a fabulous magic occurs. During 14 or 21 days we try to show them the Cuban reality; we schedule the program according to their interests, "said Raul Abreu, camp director, who has worked in this place for 21 years.
"Coming to Cuba is a dream come true; to know the country my dad has told me about. We wanted to do it as part of a brigade , because it is the best way to know Cuba, from inside, "said Amapola Ureta, a young Chilean nurse, member of the XXII South American Volunteer Work and Solidarity Brigade with Cuba.
"I did not prefer to know Cuba reality staying in a hotel," said the Argentine Nicolas Tressens ,graduate in Political Science.
"The fraternity and solidarity of the Cuban people with the world's poor, and the human sensibility in the camp, made me to repeat my visit," explains Jonas Araujo, a Brazilian economist who comes for the third time.
On the other hand, it is Uruguayan Ines Cortes’ first trip to Cuba. She imagined it before and she is now sure. "There is no other country like Cuba," said the girl. Ines and other brigade members have witnessed several stories quite different to those they read in the press. These are beautiful and true stories.
TRANSLATION BY LMMS