Havana’s Libertarian Spring

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – The Alfredo Lopez Libertarian Workshop, one of the autonomous collectives that make up the Observatorio Critico network in Cuba, along with the Cristo Salvador Gallery, has just announced that the first Primavera Libertaria (“Libertarian Spring”) will be held in Havana from May 11 to June 7 this year.

The program of activities prepared by the young members of the workshop is headed with a quote from Chile’s Salud Antiautoritaria (“Anti-Authoritarian Health”) collective, which defines anarchism as “a conception of life in which individuals realize themselves on the basis of freedom, attained through awareness, education, reflection and collective learning.”


Anarchist organizations have suffered bad press in the official media of both left-wing and right-wing governments. A dictionary of philosophical terms published in Cuba defines anarchism as a “petite-bourgeois” current.

Conversing with an Anarchist

Historian and anarchist activist Mario Castillo, one of the promoters of this initiative, spoke of some of the ideas and aims that have impelled this group of Cubans to promote the event.

“We want to recover a view of life which has been lost in Cuba, a way of relating to others, of organizing ourselves, which had a fair degree ofsignificance in the first decades of the 20th century, within the workers’ movement and in other social sectors.”

“In addition, and this may be the most important thing, we are trying to offer a practical existential alternative to the cultural desert we are faced with today, and in response to the State’s constant process of expansion within the sphere of culture and human relations.”

With a member of Spain’s 15 M movement.

“I believe it is a proposed alternative for socio-cultural practices which operates outside of the official, institutional networks which have taken root in the country, and whose nefarious consequences we are seeing today.”

“Lastly, we want to acknowledge the existence of individuals who share these libertarian notions in today’s Cuba, give new impetus to the work we do in the workshop and materialize our way of organizing social and cultural life.”
When asked about the last known date in which individuals or actions moved by these ideas were seen on the island, before the Workshop came into existence, Castillo, also an anthropologist, mentioned only two dates, both over fifty years ago.

“In 1960, the Trade Union Federation of Cuba published its last declaration, a text that, in my view, made a clarion call about the direction the revolution was heading in. In January of the following year, the last major libertarian lunch organized by the Food Industry Union was held in the venue of this organization. A month later, it was shut down.”

Libertarian Spring Activities


Under the slogan “My Anarchism and My Friends’ Anarchism,” libertarian activists hope to hold an exchange that will explain why they have chosen to study and adopt anarchist practices.

A compilation of digital texts entitled “Anarchism in Cuba: Traces and Recovery” will be launched at this gathering.
On Sunday, May 18, participants will gather to share ideas on the issue of “nutrition and responsibility” and to encourage others to consider alternative viewpoints on Cuba’s prevailing culinary traditions.

Myriam Cabrera will be a guest of honor and present her book “Permacultural Food,” published by the Libertarian Workshop. Cabrera has been an active promoter of alternative culinary practices, sustainable agriculture and permaculture in the community.

A session in which participants will prepare and taste some permacultural dishes proposed by Cabrera will be one of the highlights of the workshop.

The third activity, to be held on May 23, is the art-related debate titled “What Has Anarchy Done for Art and What Has Art Done for Anarchy?” Libertarian participants will ask this and other questions and present a compilation of digital texts titled “Poetic Terrorism and Other Sublime Arts.”

The filming of what workshop members have call “an exquisite video-corpse” will have the phrase “I am also an oppressor” as its leitmotif and will conclude with an entertaining session in which participants will improvise music using instruments and other objects and question artistic cannons by giving everyone the possibility of being creators.

A Tribute to Alfredo Lopes in Havana in 2013.

On May 31, debates will focus on the issue of anarcho-syndicalism. During the debate, the documentary “Another Cuban Trade Union Memory” will be screened and the historic anarchist newspaper Tierra (“Land”), as well as its successor, Tierra Nueva (“New Land”), published by the organizers, will be presented to participants.

The day will close with a fair in which music, books, clothing and other objects will be traded among participants.
The Spring activities will close on June 7 with a tour titled “Down the Anarchist Route in Havana.” The tour will take participants to historical sites, many of which have suffered government neglect, which mark important episodes of Cuban workers’ and popular struggles.

Resurgence in Cuba

Many active Cuban anarchists were imprisoned and some even executed following the triumph of the revolution in 1959. After many were forcefully driven to exile, the anarchist movement did not recover its strength until recently.

Mario Castillo

Since its creation five years ago, the Alfredo Lopez Libertarian Workshop has organized a series of community initiatives in Havana, most of which have been aimed at rescuing local historical memory.

Debates on diverse issues have also been organized by the organization. These have included the student movement in Chile and 15-M in Spain, unemployment in Cuba, the Tiananmen Square massacre in China, the pathologization of labor at health institutions, the life and work of anarchist Frank Fernandez, the Spanish Civil War, the situation in Greece and Venezuela and others.

Worker, libertarian, trade union, socialist and different social movements currently maintain fraternal links with this incipient movement on the island, particularly from countries such as Spain, Venezuela, France, Germany, Colombia, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Brazil.