Behind the Mask: Are Parents the “Owners” of Their Children?

By Esther Zoza

Three generations under the same roof. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – The work Cuban TV has undertaken during these times of COVID-19 is praiseworthy, especially in its efforts to keep families together, encouraging the comprehensive role of parents in the relationship with their children. Unfortunately, the situation isn’t as ideal as it seems.

Everybody knows that both the domestic and international blockade is hitting Cuba’s economy hard, leading to increased levels of poverty and overcrowding. Having several generations living under the same roof sometimes leads to alcohol addiction and violence; women, old people and children become victims of silent and sustained abuse.

If there’s a country in this world that is concerned about children’s wellbeing, it’s Cuba. Ever since the Revolution’s victory in 1959, the Government’s policy has been to ensure education, healthcare and other services for them. Cuba signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 1990, and it was ratified in 1991, coming into force on September 20 that same year.

It seems ironic how, in a country like our own, some parents continue to use outdated practices with their children. It is no secret that a percentage of parents believe that their children are their property, and they don’t consider rude remarks, beatings and shouting acts of violence. Arbitrary actions, indifference and neglect are becoming more and more normal, and it doesn’t always have something to do with the parents’ education level either.

At some point, these parents forgot their own childhood and have clung to their age today, not remembering that they too ran about, jumped on the bed and in puddles, and were rebellious. What makes them different to other parents over Cuba’s development as a nation will be up to sociologists to study and discover. I just hope that it isn’t too late.

Like many other people, I have witnessed countless acts of violence here of parents against their children, and I have thought of trying to do something, but, as I’ve said before, parents feel like they own their children in our country. I imagine that when violence against our own children comes to light, not only by writers who dare to put this into words, that educating Cuban families about violence becomes an inescapable option.

3 thoughts on “Behind the Mask: Are Parents the “Owners” of Their Children?

  • My comments Stephen applied to prior Covid 19 conditions. It will be interesting to record any behavioral differences when the children return to school, currently intended to be in September. Teachers have already been having meetings planning the re-opening. I noted that you prefaced your comments with “perhaps”.

    In Cuba, the level of difference between pre Covid, period of Covid, and post Covid conditions will not necessarily be similar to that of other countries. Cubans are accustomed to living in crowded conditions with little entertainment. Additionally, they have been conscious of winning the battle against the virus. Now, cases are largely confined to Havana and within Havana, to Havana Centro. Much of the country is clear. I am far from certain that the domestic changes consequent to Covid, are as great in Cuba as they are elsewhere. The period of confinement did not commence until late March and has already been eased.

    I read Esther’s comments with interest, but confinement has prevented a full picture being given, restricting observations to personal surroundings. That is evident in the claim made regarding Cuba being more concerned about the welfare of it’s children than other countries. There speaks the absorbed but unsubstantiated state propaganda. I have seen plenty of child neglect in Cuba, and teachers would agree!

  • With regard to children, certainly in Western countries, and perhaps in Cuba also is the negative toll the COVID-19 pandemic is having on children.

    Children have been absent from school from the beginning of the pandemic. Schools were closed and children have been receiving their education at home, on line where possible and feasible, together with other siblings in the family. Children’s socialization and physical health has taken a major hit.

    Psychologists today are becoming increasingly concerned with the long term psychological/sociological effects this prolonged lack of school socialization and lack of physical exercise is having on children’s mental and physical health.

    It is a well known fact when children are cooped up for long periods of time at home and their parents are also under extreme stress regarding the pandemic the negative consequences are played out in the household. As the author states “… beatings and shouting acts of violence … indifference and neglect are becoming more and more normal …”. Children become unruly, restless, consequently parents react. Normal but under abnormal circumstances beyond anyone’s immediate control.

    Psychologists and educational professionals are voicing their concerns now that this outward negative behavior will continue if schools remain shuttered in September. School aged children absolutely need for their proper psychological and physical well being to be in school socializing with their peers and exercising with one another.

    The situation in Cuba is especially difficult for parents struggling day to day simply for survival and with children at home in crowded homes with numerous children around constantly, acts of violence and neglect, unfortunately, is the negative outcome.

    There really isn’t a Cuban historic parallel that can be used to explain why the sudden reversal in children’s and parental behavior is taking place now but to look to the pandemic and its extreme negative impact on the social, economic, familial relations in Cuba and in other geographic jurisdictions.

    Cuba has been doing a good job in containing the pandemic; its economy is slowly beginning to open up and hopefully its schools will be open to students in September. So this factor will hopefully mitigate some, but not all, of the tensions and conflicts parents and children are presently experiencing.

  • I am told on very good authority, that the Cuban schools are having increased difficulty with ill-behaving children of all ages, who are evidently not being taught any sense of order at home. That reflects that within Cuba, the former types of family relationships are breaking down. Early pregnancies are common, marriage increasingly uncommon, mothers with children by different fathers almost normality, and an expectation that schoolteachers ought to teach and instill some form of order in children lacking any parental guidance.

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