Cuban Lunch Celebration and Fundraiser

By Maggie Nelson

Relations between Cuba and the US are improving, but cigar aficionados are not the only ones with reason to celebrate. Together with Pastors for Peace, Corvallis Committees of Correspondence of Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) will be hosting a Cuban lunch event in celebration of steps made toward normalization among relations with Cuba. The event will take place this Saturday, Feb. 7 at the Westminster House and will also work to raise funds for OSU alumnus Eduardo Jose Cervantes as he prepares for his US Medical Licensing Examination.

Cervantes grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico and came to Oregon his senior year of high school. He proceeded to serve six years in the US Navy and attended Oregon State University. He is now the first OSU student to complete an MD degree through ELAM, the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba.

ELAM admits about 12 US students each year and somewhere around 100 US students have graduated. Currently there are approximately 150 US students enrolled. ELAM provides its students with housing, food, a small stipend, and—get this—free tuition. The only catch: students are asked to return to their home country to provide medical care in areas in need of medical service. US students were not permitted to attend when ELAM was first established; however, in 2001 Fidel Castro allowed the enrollment of 500 US citizens.

Since 2006 the Corvallis CCDS group has traveled to Cuba along with Pastors for Peace to work to demolish trade and travel bans between the US and Cuba as well as to deliver medical supplies to Cuba. City councilor and participant in the lunch event Mike Beilstein, who has made the caravan trip to Cuba nine times, comments on the progress toward civilized relations: “The warming of relations with Cuba will present many challenges to the socialist system which has worked well for Cubans. However, it is clearly a victory for both Cuban and US citizens.”

All are welcome to attend this event, which will begin at noon on Saturday, Feb. 7, and will be held at 101 NW 23rd Street. Traditional Cuban foods such as ropa vieja, a dish composed of shredded beef and vegetables, and arroz con frijoles (rice and beans) will be served. Donations are accepted and the first $800 will go to Cervantes’ exam fees, while remaining funds will be given to the Pastors for Peace program.