On 4-11 January 1968, the Cultural Congress of Havana was held in Cuba as 'a meeting of intellectuals from all the world to discuss problems of Asia, Africa and Latin America.' The year was also designated as the Cuban 'Year of the Heroic Guerrilla'. The Congress gathered together over 400 intellectuals from over 70 countries including artists, writers, economists, scientists, sociologists, technicians, athletes, musicians, philosophers, doctors, filmmakers, ethnologists, journalists and numerous other 'intellectual workers'.
Over 150 papers were presented on the theme of 'Colonialism and Neo-colonialism in the Cultural Development of Peoples' with topics covered by five Commissions: Culture and National Independence; The Integral Growth of Man; The Responsibility of Intellectuals with Respect to the Problems of the Underdeveloped World; Culture and Mass Media; Problems of Artistic Creation and of Scientific and Technical Work. All sessions took place at the Hotel Habana Libre and each delegate could take part in the Commission of their choice. Delegates were also given the chance to investigate the transformation, particularly cultural, of Cuba since the revolution of 1959. The opening speech was made by Dr Osvaldo Torrado (President of the PCC) and each Commission set their own resolution. The final resolution of the Congress was on the topic of Vietnam, with the closing speech made by Fidel Castro.
John La Rose, Andrew Salkey and C.L.R. James attended the Congress. They received an invitation after two Cuban writers, Pablo Armando Fernandez and Edmundo Desnoes, attended an informal Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) meeting at the home of Orlando Patterson in 1967. They arrived a week before it started and stayed on afterwards. C.L.R. James celebrated his 67th birthday (4th January) during the Congress, with a lunch for 40 guests including Aimé Césaire and René Déspestre and a delegation from the American Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
La Rose, Salkey and James attended Commission Three: The Responsibility of Intellectuals with Respect to the Problems of the Underdeveloped World and challenged the basic assumptions of the Congress, with James arguing that all intellectuals should be discouraged. La Rose proposed that the term 'Latin America' should be abolished where it was applied to a cultural definition of peoples in the South American continent, Central America and the Caribbean.
La Rose also criticised the omission of English-speaking members of the Caribbean as the 'Third World' had been defined as 'Asia, Africa and Latin America.' At a later meeting, La Rose argued that the delegates who gathered to discuss the problems faced by the Third World were not representative of the countries which were being discussed. La Rose and Salkey organised an 'informal' session in a down-town theatre to discuss the issue that he had put forward in Commission Three. The session was attended by, amongst others, Aimé Césaire and C.L.R. James along with Cubans Rogelio Martinez Furé and Nancy Morejón. The Congress also became the focus of two public sessions of CAM on 5 April and 4 May 1968.