School Uniforms Are an Important Issue in Cuba

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez


HAVANA TIMES – While the media and ministers of governments in other countries dedicate their time and space to issues such as the environment, duty on market products, taxes, or whether leaders are doing what they said they would on their political agenda, in Cuba, the trivial takes the spotlight.

For over a month now, school uniforms have been hording all of the media’s and government officials’ attention, giving explanations about sizes, lists and vouchers to buy them, their manufacture and distribution or, more simply, the delay in raw materials arriving to make them.

Of course, all of this works very poorly and with a thousand problems like everything else in Cuba. You can imagine it’s a very important matter for families to be able to buy school uniforms: firstly, because children are obliged to wear a school uniform to class; and secondly, because the shortage and high price of clothes would be a torment if they didn’t have a uniform.

However, the country’s exhaustion in just trying to ensure a simple uniform, and the thousand problems this entails, really is striking and interesting. (Because they only sell one uniform per child per year). It would be a lot easier for a country comparable to ours, the Dominican Republic for example, to send someone to the Moon, than it is for the Cuban government to ensure that every Cuban school student is able to buy a uniform in their size, any day over the two-month summer holidays, without a line and without complaints because they don’t feature on the list or have modified vouchers.

The public’s complaints are pouring in. It is a lot easier to see these nowadays because of our greater IT opportunities. Using the internet, email, social media, SMS messages or just a simple call on a cellphone, thanks to the top-up cards that hundreds of thousands of Cubans receive from abroad, paid by relatives who have already emigrated. Some party-line journalists have been “authorized” to talk about the subject on some hit shows, as long as they constantly underline the State’s kindness by wanting to ensure a uniform for every Cuban child.

A really insightful event took place when young TV host Lazaro Manuel Alonso, on the Buenos Dias show on Cubavision, got annoyed because TV viewers said in their messages that “there weren’t any uniforms at the store and they couldn’t find the size they needed”, and he, along with the guest officials, clarified that “there were uniforms and that it was wrong to say otherwise. The right thing to say is that at that moment they weren’t there.”  Need I say  anything else.

So, we must ask ourselves: how do they hope to achieve a prosperous and sustainable socialism in this country if they aren’t even able to ensure every Cuban child has a simple, hand-made uniform?

If their incompetence stopped here at uniforms, we’d be fine, but it’s the same story with everything: bread, transport, food items and basic products, etc. etc. etc. A thousand items would be needed to detail this disaster.

However, uniforms are trending right now. While party-line journalists try to pose as the real spokespeople of Cuban social reality, they continue to show their true colors, a part of the system’s manipulative apparatus, emphasizing the “government’s efforts” above its incompetence.

I will also tell you that my stepson who is about to start 6th grade hasn’t been able to get a new school uniform yet, and as I write we’re just a few hours away from the school year starting on Monday. We still haven’t received the voucher because of bureaucratic problems which isn’t even worth writing about. However, I won’t waste time in sending complaints to official media, not even in my town of Mayari.

Ever since I’ve discovered what the real source is of most of Cuba’s problems, I’m not wearing myself out fighting sterile battles, such as one-off problems. The problem is that we have a system that doesn’t do us any good and doesn’t work. And I fight to be able to solve the root of this problem.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

7 thoughts on “School Uniforms Are an Important Issue in Cuba

  • How did all that repetition occur?

  • No Matthew. Osmel Ramirez comments about school uniforms – they are made in Holquin, Cuba.
    Osmel refers specifically to: “bread, transport, food items and basic products” none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    As one who frequently has to wait up to forty minutes at the panderia with up to fifty people in order to buy a couple of 200 gm loaves – only to find out that that batch of loaves is sold out before I reach the serving hatch, I understand the question about even bread.
    The US embargo does not affect the purchase of vehicles – cars and buses – by Cuba from China, France, South Korea and Mexico.
    Food importation is not affected by the US embargo – witness the various foods from Spain (canned tomatoes), Holland (jams and pickles), Argentina (frozen ostrich legs) or the US itself (canned fruit, canned vegetables, frozen chicken etc.)
    One assumes that by “basic products” Osmel is referring to soap, detergents, toilet paper, toothpaste etc., none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    The reason for Osmel’s justified complaints and comments, are a reflection of the incompetence and mis-management of the Castro regime, busily pursuing its Stalinist policies with little concern for the proletariat that it has worked hard to create over the last sixty years and eradicating the bourgeois and “kulak” (farmers with more than 10 acres) classes. Just read and think about the purge of professors at the universities in Cuba for failing to comply with Fidel Castro’s beliefs – the eradication of individuality – which is essential in a healthy progressive society.
    Those who are innocent of the reality of Cuba’s communist system are easily led to believe that somehow it is the US that is responsible for the communist economic mess in Cuba. You also mention Venezuela – where initially Hugo Chavez followed by Nicholas Maduro have practiced the economic policies they learned at the knee of Fidel Castro – as Chavez said: “He is like a father to me.”
    There has been much talk Matthew outside Cuba in recent years about some form of undefined “change” taking place in Cuba. For the average Cuban, nothing has changed, the secret for Cubans seeking a quiet life is quite simple:
    “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”

  • No Matthew. Osmel Ramirez writes off the problems of uniforms – they are not imported, they are made in Holquin, Cuba. He then says correctly, that “it’s the same story with everything” and specifically mentions: “bread, transport, food items and basic products” none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    The “overall economy” of Cuba is a consequence of sixty years spent pursuing the Stalinist interpretation of Marx/Engels/Lenin 19th century philosophy. In doing so, the Castro regime has endeavored to create a proletariat mass, eradicating the bourgeois and Cuban equivalent of “kulaks” – farmers with more than 10 acres of productive land.
    Importation is controlled by GAESA the military owned holding company which has fifty seven subsidiary companies controlling all shops, all gas stations, almost all hotels, tourist transportation, car hire companies and most of the means of production. GAESA is controlled by Raul Castro’s son-in-law General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Callejas and whose father is Major General Guillermo Rodriguez de Pezo a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
    Just imagine Matthew, being the father of three kids in Cuba and having to exist on the equivalent of US $30 – $50 per month (joint income assuming your wife is working). Only then will you be able to comprehend Osmel’s article.
    Osmel seeks “positive change” in Cuba – wouldn’t you also?
    As for Venezuela, unfortunately Hugo Chavez was a disciple of Fidel Castro, adopting his economic policies as he was in Chavez’s words: “Like a father to me.” The blustering Nicholas Maduro similarly pursued those communist policies and the results are there for all to behold.
    It is communism that is the root of the problem, for it is a scourge!

  • No Matthew. The uniforms are made in Holquin, not imported. The shortages described by Osmel Ramirez of bread, transport, food items and basic products are unaffected by the US embargo. Indeed, can you list any products which Cuba is unable to obtain from its allies?
    But many innocents swallow the Castro regime propaganda that the US embargo is responsible for all the inefficiency, mismanagement and incompetence of the communist system in Cuba and include politicians in those countries that annually support that dog-eared resolution presented annually by Cuba at the UN.
    I personally oppose the embargo for that reason. Remove it and let the world see the Stalinist communist system in Cuba for what it actually is.
    The problems in Venezuela are a consequence of Hugo Chavez and Nicholas Maduro pursuing the economic policies learned at the knee of Fidel Castro – described by Chavez as: “Like a father to me.”
    Don’t be suckered!

  • Perhaps Matthew Wilson you could provide examples of which goods cannot be imported into Cuba as a consequence of the US embargo?
    School uniforms are made in Holquin not imported. Osmel Ramirez mentioned bread, transport, food items and basic products – none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    The problems in Venezuela are a consequence of the economic policies pursued initially by Hugo Chavez and then by Nicholas Maduro – both of whom were ardent admirers of the Stalinist Policies which they copied from Fidel Castro – described by Hugo Chavez as “like a father to me”.
    The simple plain truth about Cuba and its economic mess is that it is a consequence of sixty years of the imposition of the 19th century Marx/Engels/Lenin philosophy as interpreted by Stalin and adopted initially by Raul Castro and then by Fidel Castro. That philosophy promotes the creation of a proletariat “mass”, the eradication of the bourgeois and kulaks (medium sized farmers) and with all means of production controlled by the state (synonymous with the dictator) and the consequences include for example 32% of Cuba’s good agricultural land reverting to bush.
    I personally am opposed to the US embargo because it has provided the Castro regime with an excuse for all the incompetence and mismanagement partly described described by Osmel Ramirez. It also enables the Castro regime to parade the weary old annual resolution to the UN which appears to indicate support for totalitarianism as practiced in Cuba.
    But only the innocent or ill-informed could possibly lay the blame for the economic mess which the Castro regime has created and nurtured for sixty years upon the US embargo.
    What can Cuba not obtain from its allies?

  • I wonder Matthew Wilson if you could describe the way in which the US embargo affects the Cuban economy? What does it prevent the Cuban regime from obtaining on the world market from their friends and allies? It certainly doesn’t prevent Cuba from purchasing a wide range of products from the US itself! So apart from being an excuse for the Castro regime’s demonstrated incompetence and mismanagement, what is it actually achieving?
    There are areas where the Castro regime does demonstrate competence – in particular, the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba does a superb job – even fooling the innocents tourists and foreigners who do not fully comprehend the realities of Cuba.
    Removal of the US embargo – an action which I personally would approve – would enable the innocents to understand that it has merely served as a wonderful whipping boy with the annual UN vote providing support for a totalitarian dictatorship.
    Osmel Ramirez described the problems of school uniforms – which are actually made in Holquin, the lack of bread, transport, food items and basic products – none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    The problems in Venezuela are a consequence of the slavish adherence by initially Hugo Chavez followed by Nicholas Maduro adhering to the economic policies which they learned at the knee of Fidel Castro.
    There are no real excuses – the economic plight of Cuba is a direct consequence of practicing the Stalinist type of communist ideology for sixty years.

  • Isn’t the root of this problem the US embargo and the problems in Venezuela that adversely effect the importation of goods and the overall economy of Cuba?

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