The Spanish in Cuba for Chinese Project’s Nosedive

Osmel Almaguer

The language school for Chinese students in Tarara on the east side of Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — When the Training Program for Chinese Youth was taken over by the Ministry of Higher Education, the Chinese students studying Spanish in Cuba began to experience the concrete effects of the project’s decline.

The budget was drastically reduced as the Cuban government took on a standardization policy, which consisted in reducing the once paradise-like conditions of the Tarara campus to the general level of Cuban universities.

The Chinese students began to get a small taste of the rough conditions faced by Cuban university students on a daily basis.

Their complaints didn’t take long as they saw themselves being directly affected by their loss of entitlements.

Their laundry and dry cleaning services were eliminated, as was their monthly toiletries supply; their cafes that had charged in regular Cuban pesos were closed and they lost their teacher-guides (which had been like nannies who would show them around and teach them).

Plus their room cleaning service was cut (which on several occasions ended up putting the school in danger of being closed by the Public Health Ministry).

And of course these cutbacks didn’t exclude the teachers.

The Chinese government — confronted with the general decline of the program — negotiated with the Cuban officials offering them the possibility of assuming the entire program costs, including the payment of teachers. All of this was for the sake of not seeing a decline in the quality of teaching or the overall quality with which the project was initiated.

The Cubans refused, though they couldn’t prohibit each student from receiving a monthly allowance of 200 CUCs (about $215 USD) from the Chinese government to cushion the situation they were experiencing.
Later, due to the continued complaints by the students, who wanted to spend as little time on the island as possible, the “4 plus 1”  program was implemented, which consisted of them spending their last year of their program in China.

This overall situation ultimately led to a decision: the Chinese government decided to stop sending students to Cuba.



Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

One thought on “The Spanish in Cuba for Chinese Project’s Nosedive

  • For too long Cuba have lived in this dream, fantasy world, slow to adapt to reality and insensitive to call for changes, the Latin Man Syndrome.

    As it is with the Medical Training and other carers for foreigners and Cubans, Cuba’s petrified ministry of higher education insists in their holistic-for free/cannot-afford scholarship programs, subjecting students to uncalled for hardships, degradations on themselves, their families and teachers, who are frustrated, disappointed, discouraged.

    I was part of the second group of Cuban students entering what was called Plan de Becas Universitarias in Havana in 1963. An incredible experience and model for training future professionals. We were provided with self-governing buildings at G y 25, 12 y Malecon, Linea e I and F y 3ra. Others were later added. Although East Germany had in 1965 a PNB that could have easily surpassed Cuba 20-30 times, their scholarship system had lots to learn from Cuba.

    In addition to hotel/type living conditions, we received three balanced meals, early night snack, full time medical services, bi-weekly stipend,recreational halls, library, laundry and school bus services. Weekly bedding and toiletry, once a year personal garments and round trip home bus fare each vacation.

    These goodies were complemented with high academic demands, personal discipline, moral conduct and political education. Most of the above have been replaced by a loss of living condition, academic complacency, softening of moral demands and political apathy.

    Cuba, could help tens of thousands more children from the underdeveloped world, if reason, logic, willingness to listen and change, past practices re-emplemented and strengthen. No school in Cuba’s educational system, have ever produced better trained, disciplined and well rounded graduates as Lenin Vocational School in Boyeros, Havana, only to become today a nostalgic memory of its proud graduates.

    Two years after Haiti devastating earthquake, tens of thousands of students are without shelter and schools, living on that city main thoroughfares. Why is it, that high ranking personnel in the Ministry of education, cannot find a solution to this problem, by relocating thousands of these students to tens of shuttered high schools in the country, needing only to be refurbished and ask every solidarity organization, primarily black countries and international organization to a $150.00 a month contribution per student, to whom, once again, Cuba could offer Vocational Lenin-type, high quality education through primary, secondary and higher education.

    Cuba did it decades ago on the Isle of Youth. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian, Somali and other African students, dispersed around the world today, sharing their professional experience with the world, are a living testament to what Cuba was and can do it again.,

    Thousands of qualified, underutilized professionals in every field, are ready to take on this new challenge, earn a decent wages in the golden age, and prove to the world, what vision, will and commitment can do for those less fortunate.

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