Cuban Children Today and Always

Children in school, Trinidad, Cuba.  Photo: Jenny Cressman 

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – My childhood unfolded in the ‘80s, a schizophrenic era in Cuba, where the majority of people lived in a kind of bubble. The Internet didn’t exist, nor did smartphones.

Cubans leaving the country did so to fight in foreign conflicts: Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Angola… countries that were a lot more unstable back then, or to other countries with similar regimes such as the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, which is why so-called internationalists didn’t see the other side of reality.

The other Cubans, the ones who emigrated to the US or another region like it, were considered counter-revolutionaries, worms, stateless, without the right to return.

I was a curious child that wanted to know everything. I loved reading and playing chess. Just like every child, especially in rural areas, I played baseball, jacks, hide and seek… and I learned to swim alone, in a lake. When I was 15 years old, I swam across the Ramirez Dam without my family knowing. They say that this dam takes a life every year, and I felt like a real man after such a feat.

My normal clothes? Just a pair of shorts and nothing else when I wasn’t at school, except for when I went to Consolacion del Sur with my mother or grandmother. There, I’d wear the only change of clothes I had for the occasion, normally a pair of jeans, a pair of moccasins and a checked or tight shirt.

Children back then only thought about playing. We were innocent, I was at least, and still believed the story of the stork at 8 years old. We only wanted toys, which were scarce and that was enough to make us happy.

Then, worst times came, the so-called rural schools, with their brand of child labor, cold, hunger, tiredness, less freedom and a hostile environment, saturated with promiscuity and ideological indoctrination.

Children today are so different… Their games nowadays are tables, cellphones, computers. They play videogames with clear dexterity. They are natives of technology. For example, my daughter is an expert in Minecraft and other games like it. She talks to me about them all the time and I just look at her and pretend to understand, even though the truth is I don’t understand anything she’s saying.

Children today, aside from a few exceptions, suffer the precarity of this island stuck in time. For them, an apple, a piece of candy, some chocolate cookies are a luxury, and when they have these sweets in their little hands, their eyes glisten like fireflies in the darkness.

Children today are losing their innocence a lot quicker than we did, back in the old days. I recently had walking in front of me two girls who couldn’t have been older than 12 years old. Their conversation was about sex, yep, this taboo subject. The things they were saying made them seem like liberal adults. I thought about their parents who are oblivious to this, I thought about my daughter who has just turned 12. I got scared, really scared.

The most interesting thing though, is that children today are immune to indoctrination. The seed of contempt for the system is already beginning to sprout in their infant minds. It seems like the harsh and tough reality of today is weighing a lot heavier than any worn-out fable.

My girl is only dreaming about leaving the country and becoming a famous YouTube influencer, like Sandra Cires. I hope that the natural immaturity of age wears off. Otherwise, she is a very intelligent child that has a great grasp of math, reading, writing and can talk to me about countries, languages, historic figures, etc., that I couldn’t even dream about when I was her age.

I know another girl close to the family who has a great talent for painting and writing. I’m not overexaggerating when I say that she could be an avant-garde writer or painter, if she sets her mind to it. 

This girl was called upon by her teacher to read at the ceremony to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death. Her response was “I don’t understand”, and no matter how much they explained what it was she had to do, she kept saying “I don’t understand.”

“This is a reason for me to put a mark on your file,” the teacher threatened who I’m sure has no ideology or any sense of integrity. But the girl, who I know has a strong character, just kept saying the same sentence over and over, and nothing could make her crack. Her mother is obviously very worried.

But these are the signs of the times. If the country doesn’t change, children today will be the ones to put the final nail in this Dictatorship’s coffin… 

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon here.

4 thoughts on “Cuban Children Today and Always

  • Olgasintamales makes an important point. Cubans abroad, through their support, continue to sustain the very regime they so badly want to come to an end. My wife sends a monthly care package filled with medicines, toiletries, clothing and electronics. She knows that without this support, her family would suffer hardship. But she is also well aware that they will never go to the streets and protest a system that has kept them dependent. To do so would risk losing the “comfortable”, relatively speaking, lifestyle her support brings.

  • Just a little detail Olga. My daughter and I have no family abroad, ergo, we are not supported by any exile

  • Olga I know that Pedro knows exactly the existential predicament he is in, along with so many Cubans, regarding remittances or help from abroad. He is a hard working man who is resisting ‘giving in’ to help from abroad, as you might put it.
    The internet is inevitable as is the broader awareness that comes with it. That was his point.

  • The problem Pablo is that your daughter, just like many others in Cuba have those cell phones from their uncles and aunts in USA. They do not know hunger or work – all in Cuba is done by someone else (foreigners and through the remittances from the exiles) – this means that as long as they are “mantenidos”, living off of someone else, the majority will be content and nothing will change. Now the Cuban government will allow another Mariel – those young people that could be opposition will leave Cuba. The government has armies of soldiers, police, bugarrones, torturers and criminals to repress the protests. We’ve had internets in Cuba for 20 years now.

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