Workshops that Don’t Fix Themselves

Osmel Almaguer

Photo: Irina Echarry

About 30 years ago, recreational life in the country was much closer to our cultural life. This was a time when youths combined the useful with the pleasing; and a theater, a cinema, an art exhibit or a poetry recital were available alternatives for anyone who wanted to enjoy them.

However, we’ve all witnessed a process of the marginalization in societies around the world level (though I won’t say too much about this since it has been well defined by many others).

In this process the notion of being a superman, independent, polygamist, pragmatic and even violent has won over the minds of youth, while the idea of peaceful coexistence and values like love, friendship, and utopia are “old-fashioned.”

Thirty years ago the cultural life in Cuba was sustained by an institutional framework designed by the revolutionary government. This wasn’t perfect, but at least it worked at that time.  When the Special Period crisis hit in the ‘90s, these institutions didn’t disappear but they began to take a path that was perhaps definitive in rendering their functions ineffectual, especially at the municipal level.

Back in those better years, people who were interested in writing or were novice writers had literary workshops available to them in Casas de Cultura (neighborhood cultural centers).

Every year competitions were held in which one could ascend the chain until winning the prestigious National Literary Workshop Competition, which was a dream that motivated the participation of thousands of youth hoping to prove their luck in the world of the humanities.

This in fact facilitated the emergence and development of many of today’s established literary figures.

Today all of this seems like a vague dream. There are very few municipalities (certainly less than twenty) that have continued to do good work in terms of workshops. People don’t come to them like before, and the few who do find them disappointing.

This makes me wonder: Where will the next generation’s writers come from?