Isbel Diaz Torres
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw who the award winners were: a young “cultural promoter,” and a father, a mother and a girl with Down syndrome. They were seated in front of me, in the next to the last row.
For seventeen years, the Felix Verela Center has been holding the Elena GilI Ibero-American Ethics Awards Ceremony here in Cuba. Through this event, this Cuban NGO has taken aim at the difficult challenge of “safeguarding the humanist ethics of our people.” In a global environment that spreads banality and homogenization in all areas of human development, contributing to such a disparate purpose can be an arduous task.
In addition to the awards at the ceremony, every year a group of five prizes are granted to individuals or groups that have supported values of humanism and social justice. The director told me, at the conclusion, about the many inspiring initiatives that had been recognized this year, something that jumps out when seeing the quality of the winners.
To my pleasure, the book I’m now reading was among those three efforts that were conferred honorable mentions. Is it the valuable compilation titled Transgénicos. ¿Qué se gana? ¿Qué se pierde? (Transgenics: What’s Won? What’s Lost?), and is put out by the publishers of this same NGO. The brave book, which some scientists in Cuba search for hopelessly, will have a great impact on spreading knowledge, sensitivity and mobilization among people interested in learning more about genetically modified organisms and their social repercussions.
The winner this year was the project “Con amor y esperanza” (With love and hope) – based for nine years in my home province of Pinar del Rio. It’s a program in which cultural promoters teach the art of printmaking to children and teens with Down syndrome. Among these youth, the activities stimulate their potential for expression and social integration; at the same time, the program has a positive impact on their family members, the project facilitators themselves and the community.
The moment their names were mentioned, I could see the surprise and emotion in the whole family, including the little girl. The father commented with pain to the public that “the initiative is in a difficult situation” because the center’s locale “is in total disrepair and for months they haven’t been able to do anything.”
I suppose that this award and the notoriety that accompanies it will translate into benefits for these valiant people, who —like the father said— “have come to rekindle our humanism, corrupted by so much wrong.”