Farewell to the University in Guantanamo

Rosa Martinez

Guantanamo street.  Photo: Caridad
Guantanamo street. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — In June this year, I joined the ranks of Cuban workers who, for one reason or another, have been left without a job.

In my case, it wasn’t because of a “payroll reduction”, as the restructuring of the workforce is referred to in Cuba, the equivalent of “getting fired” in other countries. Nor was I laid off, as others in this site have said, for writing for Havana Times or anything of the sort. Apparently, my posts aren’t so critical or I am still relatively unknown to most. At any rate, that doesn’t matter anymore.

I am without a job of my own will, because I got fed up with my low salary, with having to deal with an arrogant and incompetent department head and with seeing the same people and the same walls every day.

My parents still wonder how I was able to quit my post at the university, when I was so enamored of my literature classes and my students. To them, my reasons for this are senseless. “All salaries are bad in Cuba,” they tell me. It’s true: not all, but almost all salaries are bad.

I left the university, or, better said, my students, because, when all is said and done, the university couldn’t care less about losing a professor. Someone better or worse has probably already taken my position at the Department of Spanish Literature of the University of Guantanamo, which has been merged with the main campus of the former Raul Gomez Garcia Higher Learning Institute.

You could say I gave up on my students, for only they will miss my voice and my laughter. Only they will miss the stories, sometimes true, sometimes fictional, I told to encourage them to read something that not even professionals are interested in anymore.

They will miss my recurrent complaints over scientific progress (particularly in the IT and communications sectors), which leaves so little time for traditional reading, social gatherings, healthy forms of recreation and looking after one’s family.

Only they got to know the real me, for I was myself only in class, before them: at times happy, at times sincere, always rebellious, occasionally ironic, eternally combative.

That is why, even though I had some excellent colleagues during this time and lived many happy moments between the four walls of my classroom, I say goodbye only to my students, my faithful followers.

6 thoughts on “Farewell to the University in Guantanamo

  • I guess this little mistake about the word “fired” is caused more by the translator (from English to Spanish) than by Rosa herself.

  • I also teach at a university, while the saleries are better the same insensitive bureacracy she complains about I see and experience every day. This is not unique to Cuba, unfortunately.

  • “…exchange their grades for sex”, isn’t that a good thing? (just kidding Mr. Prof.)

    In 1977, when the former president of China (Mr. Den Xiaopin), was asked on what policy China should adopt to built a stronger and better country, he replied the “education is the root of our society and only resource of abundance”.

    Then 3 decades later, I hear President Obama saying he is embarrassed by the fact that US companies have to go to China and India to find engineers.

    I always find it entertaining when when people the Congress and labor unions in the US, complaining about jobs lots to China. I will always throw them my favorite question: How come you don’t hear Germany or Japan, complain about this? Both of those countries have the best education system in the world and they don’t worry about losing their jobs, because their people are irreplaceable.

    My argument is, as always, that the US will continue lose its grip to power, until it has decide to fix its education system.

  • I can only imagine, how hard it ought to be for Rosa to arrive at this painful decision. There is a great difference between teaching in the US and Cuba, because, although Cuban educators constantly complain and rightfully so, about their low wages, poor working condition, lack of equipment, stagnated development, lack of travel, excluded from international conferences, there is love, respect and admiration still among the Cuban students towards their teachers.

    Sadly, most educators in the US are guided by higher salaries, promotions or comfy positions. Teachers in Cuba cannot even imagine what their US peers make, yet, the system has removed all motivation from their work. Add to that, disrespectful parents ready to fight, school violence, drug infestation and a perennial fear of another Columbine.

    Unfortunately, I have noticed during my travels, that the Cuban education system is moving towards the American education decay, lack of respect, interest in doing better and studying hard.

    I have not been able to forget the joy, pride and happiness I felt, of seeing my students grow, develop and question my assumptions in Cuba. I am humbled today when I meet any of them, who have achieved far greater professional success than I could every dream, are parents and grandparents and still call me Profe and Usted, never Tu!

    My last experience in Cuba was in 1974. I tried to do the same in the United States, but had to give it up after 2 semester, given the level of apathy, disrespect, willingness to cheat or exchange their grades for sex.

    These are some of the reasons, many commentators on this site, have questioned my support for things in Cuba. They need not to be the way the are today, the can and must be fixed, Cubans know how, because they did it in the 60’s, when Cuba graduated the core of its scientific, cultural and educational institutions. Never give up Rosa, better days are ahead!

  • Good luck to you Rosa, I hope you have some way to get by without that job.

    By the way, you have the English slang terms reversed: to be fired from a job, is to be terminated for some misdeed on your part. To be let go in a payroll reduction or restructuring, is to be “laid off”. Generally, when a person is “laid off” they get a reasonable notice (a minimum of 2 weeks) and some small severance pay. When one is fired, they get told by their boss and walked out of the employer premises by the security guard, with no severance package.

    In my life, I have quit a job, been laid off in restructuring and once I was fired. Quitting a job of one’s own choice is the better way to go.

  • one thing I learned in life, señora Rosa Martinez, is that change is good. It might be painful but always good 🙂 Wish you luck with your new career, whatever that you decide to do!

    ” They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom” – by Confucius (551~479 BC)

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