News and Facts about Cuba

Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism

Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet, Miriam
Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 June 2017. – A characteristic feature
of ineffective and outdated political regimes is the constant appeal to
the historical past as a mechanism for legitimizing the present, and as
a resource for survival. In the case of Cuba, this principle has been
the rector of official discourse and its means of diffusion, and it has
been applied with particular force in the teaching of History.

As a consequence, several generations of Cubans born shortly before or
after 1959 have grown up indoctrinated in the assumption that all events
from the “discovery” of the Island by Christopher Columbus through
Spanish colonization, the Taking of Havana by the British, the Wars of
Independence, and the brief Republic were nothing more than the
flagstones that paved the long road that would lead to this (even
longer) path -with airs of eternity- known as the “Cuban Revolution”,
our nation’s only and final destination.

The preaching took almost religious tones. Just as Noah saved all of
Earth’s living species, the boat “Granma”, with its young crew, was the
Cuban people’s “salvation”. Thus, judging from history textbooks at all
levels of “revolutionary” teaching, the founding fathers, the
illustrious pro-independence, the brightest Cuban-born intellectuals,
and all decent Cubans for the last 525 years had their hopes set, though
they didn’t know it, in today’s “socialist” Cuba and, above all, in the
pre-eminent guidance of an undisputed leader of world stature who would
continue to lead the ship even beyond material life: .

With enthusiasm worthy of better causes, most Cuban professors,
including those who teach other subjects and not just History, have
reinforced the systematic misrepresentation of the past. An illustrative
example might be that of a professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters
of the of Havana, who would tell her students that “José
Martí would have been a perfect Cuban, except for one limitation: he was
not a Marxist. However, had he been born in this era, he would most
certainly have been a Marxist. No comments.”

However, despite the official efforts, the flat rejection of history is
embodied in the obstinate student response. Year after year, pedagogical
technocrats, faithful servants of the regime, therefore, accomplices of
that apocryphal, mechanical and boring Cuban History, insist in the
useless need for improving teaching programs, “updating” the contents
and adapting them to the present in order to make them “more attractive”
for students. The problem is a fundamental one, since the objective and
basic principle of the subject is still to blur the values of the past,
to praise a failed sociopolitical system -a fact that most students can
verify in the reality that surrounds them- and to glorify the leadership
that today’s young people find distant, alien and unwanted.

So perverse has the indoctrination been, and so reinforced the idea that
in Cuba everything has been done and decided since January 1st, 1959,
that it has resulted in the opposite effect than what the Power
attempted to achieve. Not only do the new generations show disinterest
in Cuba’s history, but many young people feel alienated from the system,
from the country where they were born, and from that future as promising
as it is unattainable, in search of which their parents and grandparents
became uselessly worn out. The Revolution has lost its heroic quality
for the new generations, who perceive it as a sort of fatal outcome
which they would rather take no notice of. Now the heroes and villains
of video games are infinitely more exciting than that gang of hungry and
stinking guerrillas who roamed an inhospitable mountain range.

It is not by chance, then, that the worst university entrance exams
results, especially in recent years, are precisely in the subject of
Cuban History, according to Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, Minister of
, within the framework of the National Council of Federation of
Secondary Education Students (FEEM), adjourned in Havana this last
Saturday, May 27th.

The same Minister also expressed concern about the decrease in the
number of students taking the entrance exams, a phenomenon that is
becoming stronger every year, which shows the growing lack of interest
of the new generations in higher education studies in a country where
professionals often make less than many skilled workers or employees in
restaurants and the service industries.

In fact, unlike the generations of students of the 70’s and 80’s, the
current tendency is a decrease in university enrollment, which does not
necessarily entirely correspond to a State policy, as some claim, but to
a scenario that is distancing itself from the official utopia and
speeches as it approaches an increasingly crumbling reality.

Successive attempts to attract students for teaching careers have not
had the expected results either. Not only are their enrollments still
insufficient, but these centers are essentially sustained by those
students whose depressed academic averages prevent them from pursuing
other, more attractive majors. For decades, teaching careers -along with
agricultural specialties– have not been in very high demand, which is
why they have been the last and sometimes, the only option for
low-achieving young people aspiring to higher education. This factor, in
turn, has weakened the teaching levels, particularly in primary, middle,
and pre-university education.

In turn, the relative success of some private sectors (the
self-employed), related to services, and other
activities independent of the State seem to be influencing the
decision-making of young people when it comes to choosing between
continuing university studies or opting for expeditious and practical
training that allows them to enter a much more attractive and better
paying labor market.

The crude reality that today’s generations exhibit far surpasses their
parents’ naive romanticism, whose paradigm of success, prestige and
salary advantages were first achieved by getting a university degree, a
mirage that faded rapidly in the face of the deep economic crisis -never
surpassed- which produced in Cuba the collapse of the so-called real
Eastern Europe socialism and pushed thousands of qualified professionals
into survival mode, translated into occupational reorientation in the
presence of the devaluation of the currency, some of them being
contracted out, into conditions of semi-slavery (as in the paradigmatic
case of doctors) or, markedly accented, in as the best
alternative.

Today’s young people -in many cases unaware- are in the presence of the
end of the utopia that marked the lives of several generations of
Cubans. At last, capital has come to be imposed, so they prefer to
dedicate themselves to what provides them with income and prosperity in
the shortest possible term.

It is a pragmatic vision without doubt, more in tune with a
post-egalitarian society, where contrasts proliferate between some
absurd “Guidelines” commanded by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the
glamour of capitalism appearing in the stained glass windows of the new
luxury hotels in Havana and other areas of the country. “If the power
elite and their descendants can enjoy the good things in life, why not
us?” reason young people.

It’s true that there are still some areas of interest for young Cubans
in higher education, as in careers related to computer science,
industrial engineering, and art and design, among others. However,
suffice it to consult the enrollment figures today and contrast them
with those in previous years to envision a future that is still being
sketched with lines unequivocally opposed to the utopia.

All indicates that the old myth of the levels of education of Cubans has
begun to crumble, and with it, that sentence that “the future in Cuba
will be that of men of science”. Another error of the
Unmentionable, because the Cuban future will belong to those enlightened
ones that have learned better to conduct themselves under the empire of
capitalism.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet,
Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/between-the-official-utopia-and-the-generational-realism-cubanet-miriam-celaya/

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