Florida friendship bus in Guantanamo, Cuba
October 2002

On Sunday, August 11 a public program was held on the steps of Guantanamo's City Hall (called the Asamblea Municipal de Poder Popular or Municipal Assembly of People's Power) to mark the official reception of a diesel school bus sent from Florida to the people of Guantanamo. Rolando Rodriguez Larramendi, mayor and president of Guantanamo's municipal assembly, spoke to the gathering and received the keys to the bus.

Thanking all those who had contributed to the bus and the sister cities project, Mayor Larramendi expressed his confidence that friendship and solidarity between the people of Cuba and the United States would prevail, despite the U.S. blockade and the continued hostilities.

The donation of the bus was initiated by the St. Petersburg-Guantanamo Sister Cities Project, and was supported by Cuba Vive of Tampa Bay, the Caribbean American Children's Foundation, the St. Petersburg Quakers, the North Central Florida Green Party and other friends of Cuba around the state. The Florida Friendship Bus contained donations which included computers and educational supplies, hospital and medical supplies, art supplies and sports equipment.

The Friendship Bus was transported to Cuba as part of the 13th Pastors for Peace US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, and local activists drove the bus from St. Petersburg to New Orleans, making stops in Tampa, New Smyrna Beach, St. Augustine, Tallahassee and Mobile. In New Orleans the bus was turned over to a Pastors for Peace driver, and from there went on to Houston and San Antonio, before crossing the Texas-Mexico border in McAllen en route to Tampico, Mexico. After arriving in Havana on a Cuban freighter from Mexico, the bus had to be driven over 650 miles to Guantanamo.

A local Cuba group is now meeting in Gainesville which seeks to promote a greater understanding of the Cuban reality and make a contribution to improved relations between Cuba and the U.S. The Gainesville Area Cuba Friendship Network organized a well-attended Evening of Friendship with Cuba on September 20 at the St, Augustine Catholic Student Center, where recent visitors to Cuba shared their experiences.

Members of the GACFN will host a Cuba Potluck and Report Back from Guantanamo on Saturday October 19th in Alachua. An organizational meeting will begin at 5:30pm, with the potluck dinner happening at 7:00 and a Power Point slide presentation at 8:00. Call 386-418-3791 or email GACFN@yahoo.com for details.

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