Maria Matienzo Puerto

Cuba nature photo by Caridad.

When I was a little girl and going to school, I remember having some friends who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that their parents didn’t allow them to wear neckerchiefs or salute the flag.  We never completely understood it, and sometimes —hiding out in the bathroom— we’d play around by having them try those on to see how they’d look in full uniform.

In fifth grade I had a friend who had to dress in white because she was in iyabó (“being reborn,” in the Yoruba religion).  Although she wore the school’s regular red skirt, the rest of her clothes (her shorts, sweater and blouse) were completely white, including a cap that covered her head.

I also remember having gone through elementary school with a girl whose mother was a homosexual.  Although everybody knew it —I don’t know how we obtained such classified information— she participated in the same activities with all the other students.  She suffered the same humiliations as the rest of us and we defended her equally from the hands of the boys.

Although they were somehow different from us other children, though without understanding too much about why, we barely paid attention to those differences.  Now I believe that if we owe anyone for taking that position, it was our teachers.

Their punishment (though we didn’t agree with them at that time) was fair and not excessive; there was no type of deference based on one’s family income, culture or politics.  Our parents could be whoever they wanted to be and we wouldn’t suffer the consequences.

“Knowledge was for everyone” – meaning we were there in school to learn, though after all these years I wonder about some things.

At that time there was nothing that prevented me from seeing the classroom as a place where I always wanted to go, or seeing the principal and the teacher as overflowing in understanding and patience, in addition to respect.

I don’t believe I was especially privileged. However, I did have a school garden and went to Pioneers’ camps (both in Tarara and Celia); they vaccinated me and I cried; I went swimming and camping on the outskirts of the city, far away from my mom.  In addition, I was an Explorer and I learned some handiworks in an interest group.  Uff! – there were heaps of enriching and good things I could go on talking about.

The prohibitions were always related to tardiness, not doing one’s homework, rudeness, fighting and impoliteness.

I think that after this recollection I’m feeling old because I see that everything has changed, though I don’t want to make judgments about what direction we’re going or if what’s happening is good or bad.  I know that everything remains in motion, that times change – and with them people and values.

People had told me the El Cotorro (a municipality on the edge of Havana) was very radical in terms of political thought, which made me even more puzzled when I saw that school named after our national hero, Jose Marti, had a welcome sign that read something like: “If you are not coming here to study, speak and think about Cuba, Do Not Enter.”

I just wonder: Does there exist only one way of thinking about Cuba?  What type of education is it that attempts to produce homogeneity, some sole way of thought, that doesn’t allow questioning or diversity of thought and action?  Am I misinterpreting what I read?  Because several hours have now gone by and I still feel confused.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

9 thoughts on “Thinking about Cuba

  • Marxism has attributes that indicate a cult, including:

    1) It attributes infallibility to a man, Karl Marx, as though he were all-knowing and all-wise, as though he were a deity
    2) Those who believe in his infallibility lose the ability to analyze reality, and even when Marxism has destroyed every revolution that has tried to implement his core economic principle of state ownership of all the means of production, they cannot accept that his economic principle is dysfunctional
    3) Those who are adherents of Marxism spend their entire political lives isolated from the people, yet cannot confront the possibility that their ideology is flawed
    4) When Marxists exercise political power they doggedly pursue a demonstrably self-destructive economic policy, even to the point of national ruination and political collapse
    5) Marxism purports to be a science, yet rejects experimentation, the very heart of science

    It’s a cult, and is close to ruining the Cuban Revolution.

  • Marxism is not a “cult” but a reasoned belief in the goodness of man. Religion is a reasoned belief in the control of man.

  • Yes, JW’s are a cult, and a peculiar one. They have what seem to me–and to many others–a lot of wacky beliefs. What should be emphasized however is their civil and human right to hold these seemingly wacky beliefs, advocate them publicly, and to operate their sect legally.

    Christianity is a cult, a big one that has both a horrific and a noble history. Islam is a cult, a big one that saved the treasures of pagan civilization from destruction, developed higher mathematics, and contributed enormously to world civilization.

    Marxism is also a cult, a non-scientific, cult-of-personality, quasi-religious one. It has cocooned newly radicalized persons for a century-and-a-half and diverted them from a workable, cooperative program of socialist transformation. But it, like the others, should not be made illegal. It should be allowed to yield its fruit and prove or disprove itself in practice.

    The point is freedom of thought & discussion . . . Maria’s central idea.

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they try to cut you off from others who do not have the same beliefs, including family.
    The Watchtower is an oppressive cult if there ever was one!

    It’s amazing they are still around after 100 years of 100% failed prophecies. Truly amazing,that they can prompt their followers to actually go door to door with a 100% bogus message.
    Their Message is a Watchtower Gospel that,Jesus had his second coming in 1914 and they were the only ones who saw it and consequently the only hope for mankind.
    The Watchtower is a wacky Orwellian world.

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