Visa for Cuba

Esteban Diaz

I am in my 6th year of medical school at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). The program was conceived by the Cuban Communist Party and more directly, by Fidel Castro, which is why we are commonly referred to as “the children of Fidel.”

I had to come to Cuba because my country was in turmoil the year I was ready to go to college. That was not the only reason I decided to come to this country. I have always been sympathetic towards Cuba and its attempt to develop a socialist system. In addition, I felt that experiencing another culture would contribute to my personal growth.

I was 19 when I arrived here. The economic and social situation in my country was critical. The rampant inflation increasingly affected the workers, especially those with little purchasing power.

For many Argentinean workers’ children, Cuba came to represent a beacon of hope that would keep alive their dreams of attending university and returning home one day to improve the lives of their families.

I personally shared all these incentives, without any reserve. However, in addition, during my stay on the island, I hoped to objectively confirm or refute the preconceptions heard in my country regarding the Cuban system.

The Argentine association that selected me to receive the scholarship had informed me of the requirements for participating in the program according to the Cuban embassy. First, they asked for the per capita income of my family and second, they made perfectly clear two commitments I had to make: I must return to my place of origin upon finishing my studies to serve those in most need and I must not in any way interfere in the political affairs of Cuba.

This was reconfirmed in another way at the Cuban embassy in Buenos Aires where we were invited along with our parents a few days before our trip.

They played a beautiful video that showed us the residence where we would be studying and informed us of what the Cuban government would provide. It also stated that the Cuba would not in anyway attempt to influence the political conscience of those studying on the island.

Although to some it was quite a relief to not have to broach such an “absurd” topic as what had been going on in our country almost daily since the “Argentinazo” of December 2001, but for me it came as a complete shock that broke with some of my ideas and projects, while at the same time confirming the articles I had read regarding the policy of the Cuban Communist Party.

Without hastily abandoning my ideas, I began to think about my impending trip. What would I find in such a controversial country located in the Caribbean, where even the climate might overwhelm me? How true would the words be of that old man with the opaque beard talking of creating socialism in a Latin American country? I would have time to overcome my doubts and forge concrete ideas that would guide me on.

2 thoughts on “<em>Visa for Cuba</em>

  • I look forward to reading more. Many Canadians, such as myself, have a very special admiration and respect for Cuba and the Cuban people; their abilities and achievements; while also sharing the desire that Cuban living standards and opportunities might soon improve.

  • I am fascinated how, despite tremendous pressures, Cuba has not only preserved its rich cultural history, but at the same time managed to build upon this to the point that Cuba music is very much at the front of what’s happening in modern jazz and other art forms. Politics is politcs is politics. But art is the real reflection of people. This is what continues to draw me to this small island country. I think there is much for us to learn about each other as people sharing this planet by sharing our arts and culture. Sure, the resorts are nice, but I look forward each year to bringing Canadian music students to the arts schools in Cuba where despite language barriers, kids can be kids, perform along side each other, share the same air, formulate their own opinions and ideas about each other by communicating directly with each other through our international language of music and art. Cuba’s art and culture speaks volumes. My students come away from these experiences with a host of questions around the true values of life, the great fortune they enjoy by having been born in a rich country such as Canada that didn’t close off relations with Cuba, and a true respect for the Cuban people who perpetuate such a vivid culture through the excellence of their musicians and other artists. We don’t communicate via politics. We communicate through our hearts. It’s important for students from different countries to be able to do this. They soon will be in charge of our world. Bravo to young people who venture into different cultures with open minds to observe, listen, and learn.

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