Vigil Challenges Prioritization of Ideology Over Suffering

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

In the wake of Fidel Castro’s death on November 25, Swarthmore students Gilbert Orbea ‘19, Gilbert Guerra ‘19, and Zackary Lash ‘19 hosted a candlelight vigil on Sunday, December 4 to honor those who lost their lives to the Castro regime and those who continue to struggle because of it.  

A pamphlet with a brief written summary of the vigil, along with candlesticks, were provided for attendees. The pamphlet spoke of the Cuban people’s hope when Castro first took power and how those hopes were dashed as human rights abuses and economic ruin plagued the island.  

Addressing the prominent leftist presence on campus, the pamphlet read: “Some applaud Castro for standing up to capitalism and US imperialism; however, this political stance ultimately came at the expense of the Cuban people. Regardless of your political stance, we cannot allow real suffering to be justified by ideology.”

Orbea shared his own personal story of how his family has been and continues to be affected by the Castro regime. He talked about being a first-generation American and the resilience shown by his family in coming to the United States, further describing the continued resilience of Cubans today who must undergo hardship to survive.

Later in the speech, he drew parallels to issues affecting Americans as of late, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline. The vigil was, overall, a call for Swarthmore students to recognize injustice and stop it outright. Offering closing thoughts, Orbea said,“We must fight everywhere, because justice that is demanded in one place, while excused elsewhere, is not justice. That is hypocrisy.” The vigil adjourned, paying one last piece of homage to those affected by injustice and expressing hope for a different Cuba.

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