We will never change - because we are right

Excepts from the talk given by President Fidel Castro
at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church,
Oct. 22, 1995

Reprinted from the Workers World newspaper, 2 November, 1995

While I was getting dressed to come here tonight, I got rid of my business suit and then I put on my fatigues, the clothes that I had used for so many years. [Applause]

Once in a while there are summit conferences and I have to dress up like an honorable gentleman. I don't know if I've become civilized. [Laughter] You know, I didn't study the career of looking like a gentleman in a business suit. I didn't study to be a politician. I had to learn the trade along the way.

The same with the war. And the interesting thing is that we won that. It was very difficult. I'm not going to tell you that old story, but there was a time in which we were only a few, less than 10, and our adversaries were many, but in 25 months our revolution was victorious. [Applause]

We learned the trade of guerrilla warfare. I felt so comfortable in those fatigues, I kept wearing them all these years.

[Tonight] I changed back to my fatigues because I said to myself, if the last time I went to Harlem I was wearing my fatigues, how am I going to go back to Harlem dressed in a business suit? [Applause]

And I said to myself, what am I going to do in Harlem? Because I can say certain things in the United Nations but here we don't have immunity to go into certain subjects. There I have to be careful but here I have to be cautious too. Nobody should think that I am interfering in the internal affairs of this country. [Laughter and applause]

I swear I'm not going to get mixed up in anything that's not public. Only some abstract, generic things, some philosophy. [Laughter]

Then I remembered that yes, I had things to talk to you about, but without breaking any laws, without getting caught up in court. Though in that case, I hope you would come visit me. [Applause]

I believe that yesterday there was a dinner. [Laughter] I think that the mayor said I was a demon, and that a demon could not be invited to dinner. I said, I'll go hungry my first day in New York.

It's really incredible. A wealthy family and a group of business people invited me last night for dinner. They invited the demon. What a paradox. And we should be happy because there are many more, the people who understand that the blockade and all those things are obsolete, that it's crazy.

My presence here is not because I wasn't invited to dinner tonight. I would never fail to have this meeting with you. I wanted to visit the Theresa Hotel, and I wanted to have an encounter with you here in Harlem.

Those were unforgettable days, when I came to the Theresa Hotel many years ago. There was such hostility, such a campaign against our country, that I passed through one district where people gestured like this. [Thumbs down] I didn't know what they meant by that, but I could imagine that something was wrong. But everything changed when I came to Harlem. [Audience gives thumbs up.]

Rosemari [Mealy] mentioned all the people who came to visit me at the Theresa Hotel [in 1960], international leaders who were in solidarity with me. Khrushchev was one of the first leaders who came to visit me, and he was the leader of a superpower. I appreciated that gesture. Khrushchev was a very shrewd peasant, a very funny guy, and he didn't dismantle his country.

That was 35 years ago. The incredible thing is, I'm still expelled. [Laughter] I'm still being left out of the dinners and the receptions, as if nothing had changed, as if we were still in the days of the Cold War. But if others have not changed, we will not change either. Others might change because they are not right, but we will never change, because we are right. [Applause]

And the best evidence is your presence here, and the warmth with which you have received me here tonight.

I think our people have carried out their ideals. Millions of people have been taken care of by our doctors in Africa, in Latin America, and other parts of the world. Thousands of Cuban teachers and professors have trained technicians.

Cuba was left with only 3,000 doctors out of the 6,000 it had in 1959. Three thousand left. They were enticed with better salaries here in the United States.

However, nowadays we have 60,000 doctors. If, one day, the Americans were to need doctors--I know there are many good doctors here, but if one day, in a certain place, barrio, you don't have a doctor--our doctors will come. [Chants of "Viva Cuba revolucionaria"]

That is the country which is under a blockade. That is the country that has been accused of violations of human rights, the country that has raised life expectancy to almost 76 years, that has reduced infant mortality from 60 deaths per 1,000 live births to less than 10, and in doing so has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

We have the highest number of teachers and professors per capita in the world. We have the highest percentage of doctors in the world.

We have done something more than that. We have shed our blood to fight against colonialism. [Long applause]

Over 2,000 Cubans gave their lives in internationalist missions, fighting colonialism. If there is something that makes us proud, it is the 15 years that we fought against South Africa, against racism and apartheid. [Standing ovation]

One of the most awful systems of discrimination and racism existed in South Africa. Dozens of years after the end of fascism and Nazism, that situation existed there. South Africa was not blockaded. South Africa was not prevented from purchasing food and medicines, but the country that was heroically fighting against the racists was sold not one aspirin. That was our punishment.

Today everyone is happy because apartheid is finished, because the independence of Namibia was attained. But it was a tough struggle by Namibians, Angolans and Cubans. They had to fight.

Our troops were close to the South African border--a powerful country, a very wealthy country with nuclear weapons. We were over 6,000 miles away, but we still kept up that fight and sent 40,000 troops to stop the forces of apartheid.

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