—Gonzalo is a 4-year-old neighbor. What he likes most is the beach, although at night he is obsessed with reaching the moon. He fears mosquitoes because he associates them with the noise and smoke of the fumigation apparatus. He is joyful and uninhibited, although he sometimes gets upset when his uncle doesn’t let him wear his hat or the ice cream man doesn’t pass at the usual time.
Dayana was that way too until she started school. She learned to read and write and give speeches. Now she is not interested in dolls or the stars. Now she wants to defeat the enemy. It pains me to hear her repeat the same phrases as the adults, make the same gestures, telling similar stories. She memorized the biographies of the martyrs, dates of bloody battles, and some patriotic poems.
“Children are the hope of the world,” the poet Jose Martí said. However, that hope has to be educated in love, in respect. If we destroy childhood imagination, what will become of these children when they grow up, when they are tomorrow’s adults sustaining the country?
My generation grew up during the time of illusions. They made us believe that we were destined to save the world. Cuba has always been the center of the world to Cubans. Now that we are adults we understand that we have not been chosen for anything, not even to save this island from dehumanization.
The children of my neighborhood play war; many of their parents get drunk, perhaps so as not to think. All the stores are brimming with alcoholic beverages, and national celebrations are accompanied by more alcohol than sweets. Alcohol consumption is encouraged even in the amusement parks and book fairs.
Our children need care. The future of the country demands a change in children’s education. The change must happen in the family. Childhood should be sacred, like they taught us. Crossing one’s arms and criticizing does no good. It is imperative to restore emotion and sentiment so that Gonzalo and Dayana speak with their own words, dream of touching a cloud, and can better educate their own children.
It is not any kid’s fault that this island is under threat or that we are hit by so many hurricanes. We must not allow the wind of despair to blow fantasy away.