Penn State will abruptly remove a Fidel Castro quote from the Paul Robeson Cultural Center at the HUB-Robeson Center following outcry surrounding the former Cuban leader.
The removal was prompted by this letter drafted by Erik Suarez, an international student from Venezuela. The message says the quote misrepresents Castro’s “infamous legacy” and “ignores” values Penn State strives to embrace.
“The people of Cuba have spoken as they chant in the streets all across the island the same message: ‘Libertad,’” the letter reads. “Here at Penn State, we must join their claims in support of freedom [by] doing the little we can to support the Cuban people in their struggle — [getting] rid of the figure and spread of Castro’s image on campus buildings.”
Castro, who died in 2016, led Cuba with single-party authoritarian rule from 1959 to 2008. His quote displayed in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center is as follows:
“The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing, that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world, is what I wish for all.”Fidel Castro
Seven individuals signed the letter, which misidentified the space as the “Paul Robertson” Cultural Center. The message gained endorsements from three students who claim to be victims of socialism, communism or authoritarianism in Venezuela, Cuba and Spain. The letter was also signed by a UPUA representative, Penn State College Republicans’ president, and members of two other conservative organization chapters on campus.
Notably, the letter did not have signed support from any Paul Robeson Cultural Center staffers or liaisons. Members of Penn State’s multicultural caucuses also were not represented.
In a statement, Penn State said it agreed with concerns raised by the letter and will remove the quote.
“The presence of the quote has just come to the University’s attention from a student who expressed concern. We agree with the concerns, and the quote is being removed,” a Penn State spokesperson wrote in a statement. “We also have reached out directly to inform the student who raised the concern that this is the University’s decision.”
It’s not clear when the quote first appeared there or if the Paul Robeson Cultural Center was involved in the university’s decision to remove it. At this time, it’s also unclear when the planned removal would occur.
Suarez, the 22-year-old student behind the letter, told Fox News that the displayed Castro quote was “a big shock.”
“I wasn’t expecting to see in Penn State a quote from this dictator that had been repressing the people of Cuba for more than six decades and who was the inspiration for the regime that is repressing my country right now,” Suarez told Fox News. “There was a lot of feelings in that moment because I love my school. My school has given me a lot of opportunities, and I have a deep connection with it. Watching it display a Fidel Castro quote hit hard, and it was very shocking for me.”
The quote’s announced removal comes at the same time that anti-government protests spread across Cuba. President Biden said Monday the United States stands by Cubans following the “decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”
The Paul Robeson Cultural Center’s origins date back to 1972. The organization hosts cultural programs and activities on campus and aims to serve students through “the development of character, conscience, and social responsibility through fostering identity development, social justice and inclusion.”