ELAM Med School 10 Years After

Daisy Valera

Graduates of ELAM.
Graduates of ELAM.

After its having graduated 7,256 students from some 30 countries as general practice doctors in providing primary health care services, a ceremony was recently held in Havana at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to mark the 10th year since its founding.

The idea for the creation of ELAM came in 1999 from Fidel, whose aim was the creation of better human beings.

With the news of its anniversary, there came to my mind a certain image of ELAM.  I’ve been there only once (for a series of seminars) since Cubans such as me cannot generally enter the school grounds unless they work there.

ELAM is a large school where students from many countries converge; therefore it’s a place where the various cultures of Latin America come into contact and begin to understand one another, an undoubtedly challenging situation.

After having spoken with many students who went to this school, most recalled it with a mixture of sadness and joy.

The sadness stemmed from the sensation of confinement they’d experienced there because of never living in a boarding school situation before, as is the custom here in Cuba. Likewise, their bouts with hunger pangs had resulted from their having to adapt to a diet different from that of their own country.

Then too, there were those whose expectations of living in a socialist country were dashed; students who had been in socialist political movements in their own countries felt frustrated when they found they couldn’t carry out those same types of activities here.  These were just a few of the circumstances faced, besides, of course, having received an education they couldn’t have afforded in their own countries.

When people think of ELAM additional points come to mind that would give a better idea of what this initiative has meant for Cuba and the rest of the countries of Latin America.

In the first place, this school was created without previously asking the Cuban people if they considered it an appropriate time for undertaking this effort; the island had just gone through a deep economic crisis, which in fact continues even today.  After ten years, some people still think the Latin Americans do little more than come to eat food that should go to Cubans.

In addition, too much emphasis was placed on the fact that Cuba would educate Latin American students, without highlighting the fact that interaction with these students would also benefit Cubans, from the point of view of our understanding of Latin America.

Some Cubans still don’t trust these students to attend to them as doctors in our hospitals.

But the most important focus should be on the roles these doctors will play in their respective countries…the need for humanity, solidarity and the desire to become good doctors capable of helping their people.  Once they graduate, it’s not enough for them to be inserted into the dynamics of capitalism.

When many of the graduates return to their countries they focus on getting their own families on their feet, since that becomes a possibility once the former students themselves become professionals.  In addition, the people who receive attention from these thousands of doctors come only for medical care, but they don’t understand that nothing at all has changed in their country, or that they too have to struggle or continue struggling.

For the Latin American School of Medicine to be a school truly beneficial to “Our America,” it cannot limit itself to only educating humanist doctors – it has to go further.  It has to train social actors who are well aware that to maintain good health, what is most important is to build a new social system that doesn’t function at the expense of people.

Cuba has the obligation to give a politically socialist education to these youths; otherwise the impact of ELAM on Latin America will be solely palliative.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.



6 thoughts on “ELAM Med School 10 Years After

  • This idea was the best if not one of the best the Castro Adm ever invisioned. Its not about who makes money and who does not its about the people thier needs and our humanity..Returning home to thier perspective countries, helping those most in need should be an honor..

    Reply
  • I will tell you why they keep them segregated from Cuban students.
    So that they will believe the myth the Cuban myth of socialism.

    Reply
  • Julio, Cuban socialism in not a myth. It is a 50-year experiment that has tested the 100% state ownership hypothesis of old Marxism. That hypothesis has proved to be “false, but partially true.” What is needed is the formulation of a new hypothesis for the further experiment.

    We in the US are hoping for a new Cuban hypothesis of “partial, non-controlling” state ownership through employee co-owned cooperative corporations. It’s the basis of our movement in the US, b/c we’ve learned from the failures of the countries that have tried to apply the old formula. We’ve put forward a new hypothesis for a new, re-vitalized socialist movement and transformation.

    If there’s a myth involved, it’s that capitalism will last forever. If Cuba is successful with a new, non-bureaucratic hypothesis, Fidel will live to see the end of monopoly capitalism worldwide. Even if Cuba maintains the old dysfunction however and finally collapses, the struggle for socialism will someday win.

    Reply
  • Grady this site is a bit hard to have a debate about the topic because the post do not appear inmediatly
    I will invite you to go to Yoani’s page in english an post there and we can have a civil debate about the topic
    their current topic is http://www.desdecuba.com/generationy/?p=1214
    but we can talk about anything there.
    I am usually checking the last post there so. You are invited.

    Reply
  • Grady, I am not sure if you have visited Cuba
    You have to admit that whatever they had going there was not working. I think you agree with me on that one. Or am I mistaken on that believe?
    Any mix between capitalism and socialism meaning still one unique party the communist party is still not a good solution because people are still repress and since the communist do not allow workers to form free syndicates it becomes a very exploitative society not what Marx and Engel had in mind for Communism.

    Communism was suppose to be for the benefit of the working class not for the exploitation of the working class. That seems to be the Chinese model. Will continue debating with you at Yoani’s English web post if you like.

    Reply
  • Julio, thanks for your comments and invitation. I haven’t really connected with the Yoani thing as yet, and don’t really know yet how to handle a discussion through it. It’s really late in California tonight and I’m sleepy, but I promise to try and reach you tomorrow through the site you’ve indicated.

    For now, let me say that my first interest is achieving a workable socialist republic in the US, my home country. This desire for a Cooperative Republic in the US makes be doubly interested in discussing matters with sincere Cubans and other sincere socialists in other countries. If Cuba can reform her bureaucratic form of socialism and show the world what real socialism is, this will greatly assist the transformation in all countries, inc. of course the US.

    My eyes are shutting and I’ve gotta go, but I hope to continue the discussion later. Thank you, again.

    Cheers, Grady

    Reply

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