The US embargo on trade with Cuba and ban on American travel to the island except under license continues. This summer Pastors for Peace will again challenge the blockade and travel ban with a friendshipment caravan to Cuba. Books for Cuba equals Libros para Cuba is a California-based group of librarians organised to support Cuban public libraries by donating materials. They will take a fully stocked bookmobile on this year’s caravan.
The bookmobile will go into service in the rural Granma Province. Cuban librarians chose the location and worked with Dana Lubow and Rhonda Neugebauer to develop the collection criteria used to stock the bookmobile. Dana and Rhonda, the American librarians behind the project, have met with librarians in Cuba on several occasions. In January 2007 Dana visited libraries in Granma Province. Despite great progress to date, they need our help.
Cuba’s literacy rate is more than 97%, the highest in Latin America. Cubans are avid readers and life-long learners who rely on their libraries. Before the revolution there were only 32 libraries in Cuba. In 2002 there were 400 public libraries and 6000 school libraries. The libraries struggle to obtain the materials they need. Cuba is a still-developing country long handicapped by an illegal and immoral US-imposed economic blockade. As a result, it has little money to support its highly valued libraries. It is possible to work around the blockade but the costs of doing so are prohibitive. Moreover, a paper shortage in the 1990s paralyzed the Cuban publishing industry, which is only now recovering.
Many people outside Cuba do not realize that, while Cuban librarians must use the most creative means to even marginally meet the needs of their users, US government operatives generously support a network of so-called Independent Libraries and pay their dissident "librarians" for "services rendered." The Independent Libraries Project is just one of many tactics used by the US State Department in its effort to destabilize the revolution and otherwise interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign Cuba.
For more information about Cuba's public libraries and the Independent Libraries see "'Payment for Services Rendered': US-funded Dissent and the 'Independent Libraries Project' in Cuba" by Rhonda Neugebauer. You can read it on-line at http://www.pit.edu/~ttwiss/irtf/cuba.payment.html.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Money is badly needed for the bookmobile and its maintenance and repairs. To ensure the lowest transfer fees and best possible exchange rate, we will pool donations for transfer to the US. If you want to contribute to the fund, please make your cheque payable to Cuba Solidarity Oxford care of Carol Stavris, 120 Loyd Road, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 8JR.
Many Spanish language books are needed to fill the bookmobile. You can purchase new and used books at http://www.alibris.com by clicking on "Donate a Book" at the top. Then search for the bookmobile Wishlist by entering email@example.com. This is a simple and efficient way to donate books since they will be delivered directly to Dana and the bookmobile. The list of books is long and impressive. It includes titles for all ages, and covers all topics and price ranges.
Let us know if you have books of your own in good condition in Spanish that you want to donate. Two Oxford CSC members may be travelling to Los Angeles in June. If so, they will hand deliver a limited number of books that meet the collection criteria. The bookmobile also needs a few books in English for language learners. If you think you may have suitable items, please contact the Oxford Cuba Solidarity Campaign at the email address below.
Spread the Word
This is an important undertaking in its own right. But it also clearly illustrates the means used by the US State Department to destabilize the Cuban government as well as how the blockade impacts ordinary Cubans. We can use this opportunity to build wider support for Cuba and to foster critical discussion of American foreign policy.
The exterior of the bookmobile will feature design elements contributed by Gerardo Hernández, one of the Miami Five. Gerardo now awaits justice in a southern California prison. His artwork should provide an opening to expand public awareness of the Miami Five’s compelling story.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can help send books and a bookmobile to Cuba!