Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

Oct. 29, 1999.

YOUNG CUBAN PEOPLE YEARN FOR ANSWERS By Yohanka Milagros Navarro Lasalle, Vice -President, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy.

Conversing openly with our youth brings us to realize how distorted are their concepts of culture. As well as how difficult it is, in this second largest city of Cuba, to satisfy the aesthetic cravings of its population of all ages.

This afternoon, like any Saturday in my city, we read the newspaper, the official organ that lists what activities are available for the week-end. Eric, one of those at our gathering, felt crushed. This worker, a 30-year-old computer technician, could find nothing of interest in the week-end offerings. He was right. There were no attractive theater choices. The programs at the Heredia were dismal. The movies did not show anything worthwhile.

As we were all talking about such things the arguments started to drift into topics beyond. Can one speak without fear about the current state of our culture? Is there an effort being made to maintain it, to improve it?

This government has reached its stated goal of "educating" all persons at an early age. Many of us in rural as well as urban areas wonder: Is that all that's needed? We have progressed little. One can hold to that accomplishment the way one holds to "a hot nail" (from a Cuban saying).

Mr. Fidel Castro's government holds that "hot nail" and forgets the issue of quality. The focus is on ciphers. Statistics show we have a high level of "alphabetization" (literacy) throughout the country. But a more meaningful cipher would tally the quality of the process.

Perhaps it would be difficult to do this in Cuba; we have such a complex mixture in our make-up. But this mixture has produced a cultural identity with high values, recognized at international levels. Our society has produced names well known in the arts, science, religion...having left a mark with values that go beyond our country's borders. This is why we must, in fact, strive to preserve the quality of our culture. To continue to produce well-cultured Cuban leaders, able to function at a world level, we must secure the following:

1. A correct education begins at home and continues through all school levels. Both family members and teachers present the basics of society. Moral teachings or customs should not be opposed by a government struggling to preserve itself in power, no matter what, with such statements as "Socialism or Death."

2. Freedom of thought and expression must exist so that truly educated individuals are formed. Their educational and artistic opportunities should not depend on their belonging to the Cuban Communist Party. To force them into the party and into that mold is to create a double standard, in which what they hear is accepted as heard (at first) - yet in their first opportunity away from our country, they renounce their heritage and are willing to try their chances in any foreign land.

3. The government must open spaces. A teacher must feel stimulated to let a youth acquire his or her own sense of culture. This job, started in the home, is continued by the school teacher. Currently children have no cultural content in their school songs!

The majority of young people, just like my friend Eric, have very little knowledge of Cuban music, classic or otherwise. They may know the name of a few famous songs but hardly anything about our classics or our theater. The museums are not interesting to them. They don't even have places to go to entertain themselves with foods and pursuits appropriate to their age!

Since the very beginning, this government placed its greatest emphasis on what happens in the province of Havana. Santiago, the country's second city is offered conga music and beer-keg parties on the streets. The consequence is a distortion of our culture, violence and alcoholism which, like illegal drugs, affect all levels of society.

All of this destroys the human being...even if it preserves the government in power.

Eric as well as others present at our discussion reached these other conclusions: Since the earliest generations, our current society is accomplishing a destruction of our culture. Even worse, faced with so many problems and societal needs...we can't take time to correct matters!

To be well educated means, at its best meaning, to be cultured. What will happen to our new generations in the next millenium if we can't defend TODAY their unwritten right: to know our culture?

Yohanka Milagros Navarro Lassalle, Cuba Free Press.


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