A 50 member Guyanese delegation from the diaspora in the United States has ended a week-long people to people visit to Cuba during which they enjoyed the open friendship and warm hospitality of the Cuban people.
The delegation comprised members from the Sunshine State Softball Cricket Association (SSSCA) and the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) who visited Cuba as part of the 48th Republic anniversary celebrations as well as celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Guyana and Cuba.
The visitors opened their encounter last Thursday in the city of Holguín, which is home to hundreds of Cubans who visit Guyana to engage in trading. While there, members of the delegation interacted with Cuban children and adults who displayed their cultural talents in the city square. Later, the team travelled for three hours by road to Santiago de Cuba.
On Friday, February 23, Guyana’s Republic Day, the SSSCA played two soft ball cricket matches against a Cuban team and another comprised of Caribbean students studying at universities in Santiago de Cuba ‒ both of which were won by the visitors. An appreciative gathering, including a group of school children watched the matches amidst a musical performance by a local guitarist/singer, one of whose renditions was a song he composed entitled ‘Guyana’.
On Friday, some of the visitors also interacted with Cubans at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery where the remains of several of Cuba’s heroes, including the ashes of Fidel Castro, are entombed. They witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony at the memorial.
Some four decades ago the Government of Guyana donated a set of steel pans to the Cuban community in Santiago de Cuba as well as provided two steel pan tuners to assist with the launch of Cuba’s first steel orchestra. On Friday afternoon, two of the organizers of the visit, Guyana’s Honorary Consul for Florida, Ramzan Roshanali, and President of the GACC, Wesley Kirton, were guests at a special event where performances were given by both the children and adult sections of the steel band. Both sections performed a variety of popular Cuban, Caribbean and American songs, including ‘We are the World’. The band hopes to be able to perform in Guyana in the not too distant future. Scores of people from the community flocked to the small hall and the streets surrounding the venue to view and listen to the performances. Speaking through a translator, the director, members of the band, and community members thanked Guyana for assisting with the formation of the band, which has since received additional assistance from Guyana’s Caricom sister nation, Trinidad and Tobago.
This was followed by a meeting at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago at which welcome remarks were delivered by its executive director, Ms Alba Luis Blanco Mendez. A response was made on behalf of the visitors by Mr Wesley Kirton. The Chamber celebrated its 55th anniversary on February 23rd.
The Hotel Melia in Santiago was the venue for Guyana’s Republic anniversary celebration on Friday evening. Sponsored by Surinam Airways, which is the only airline currently providing non-stop service to Guyana from Florida, some 200 guests gathered for the event. Remarks were made by Mr Ramzan Roshanali, Mr Wesley Kirton, and a message was sent by Guyana’s Ambassador to Cuba, Mr Halim Majeed, who is currently hospitalized, but recovering well. Ms Maria Adams, director of international affairs of the City of Santiago, spoke on behalf of the Government and people of Cuba.
The Guyanese visitors left Santiago de Cuba on Saturday morning via aircraft for Havana where they enjoyed the rich culture of the Cuban people at the internationally famous Tropicana on Saturday night. On Monday, the interaction took the form of a cricket match which was won by the visiting team.
On Tuesday the visitors were received by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, during which they were brought up to date on the activities of the Chamber. Later, a courtesy call was paid on Guyana’s Ambassador to Cuba, Halim Majeed at the hospital in which he is recovering well after recent surgery and then visited the Embassy where they heard an impromptu presentation from Guyana’s Housing Minister, Ms Valerie Patterson-Yearwood.