Lessons Learned in my Cuba English Classes

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

Colonial. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I have been taking an English course at Havana’s Julio Antonio Mella Language School for about a year and a half. I started my last semester this past February.

Throughout this time, I have had the opportunity to talk with different people and to become exposed to a different (and perhaps more profound) way of understanding certain aspects of our reality which sometimes strike me as distant, unbelievable and even foreign.

Some of these issues are well known by most people: the urgent need to raise the salaries of Cuban workers and how many professionals need to quit their profession in search of better paid jobs (in my class, there is a social communication graduate who works as a vehicle custodian, a “parqueador” , as they are known in Cuba). There are other serious issues that concern me also, and one of them is homophobia.

The intolerant attitudes I have perceived in young people (most of them well-educated professionals) not only saddens me but also makes me wonder about the close-mindedness of our generation, which reproduces the discriminatory values of underprivileged sectors, to the point of thinking it “disgusting” and “unnatural” that two people of the same sex should kiss on screen.

I couldn’t believe what I heard one day when, before going into class, I had a conversation about Cuban filmmaker Enrique Pineda Barnet’s Verde, verde (“Green”), which deals with the issue.

At that moment, I asked myself: what is being taught at Cuban schools and homes? What type of mentality are we developing?

Now, having gotten to know my classmates more and grown fond of them, I have even more questions.

How can we do away with such models as that of the young woman married to a foreigner who buys her clothing, shoes and jewlery, who gets a daily allowance and doesn’t do anything other than spend the better part of her youth cleaning her palace and going out to expensive places to eat and dance?

How can we change the paradigm of success that some of the students in my class have adopted, seeing the benefits that this “lucky” girl enjoys every day?

The girl is the center of attention in the class. People approach her in search of help. Those of us who work and live on our salaries aren’t that well received. But that’s the least of it.

The worst part is that virtually all of the girls in the classroom want to imitate her, and she makes an effort to find a foreigner she can introduce to her friends. When they get what they’re after, these girls will likely quit their jobs and devote themselves entirely to the “good life.” They will live off someone else’s money, because that’s “what gets results” in Cuba.

9 thoughts on “Lessons Learned in my Cuba English Classes

  • I’m not sure what Thatcher’s comment has to do with the original post, but what I was trying to say was that despite her rhetoric about “standing on your own two feet” and “rewarding hard work”, she got her own wealth in a similar way to the “young woman married to a foreigner” who “will live off someone else’s money”.

  • Why is that worth remembering. What does her personal life matter to this thread?

  • It’s worth remembering that Margaret Thatcher only made her money by marrying one of the wealthiest men in Britain and awarding herself a 50% pay rise as Prime Minister.

  • Well I don’t like homosexuality but I hate discrimination even more! Having lived on 3 different continents in the world taught me a great lesson – pick the less evil of the two and live with it…

  • Thank you so much

  • how can get the phone number of this school?

  • Yes, well like you Margaret Thatcher chooses to misrepresent what socialism is because she too could not make her case were she to be factual .
    Several times in the past you have refused to define socialism or communism because of one of two reasons:
    1) You are ignorant of the structures and have only a cursory and right-wing perspective on democratic economies and social structures.; you oppose them
    2) You , like Thatcher deliberately conflate the totalitarianism of the Soviets Chinese , Cubans, etc with the philosophies of socialism and communism which are democratic .to denigrate those systems .
    About other people’s money.
    Since the end of Reagan’s time in office there has been a one trillion dollar transfer of wealth from the poorest people (workers) in the U.S.to the richest -the top1% or so .
    Poverty is up to around half of the workforce
    When will the poor run out of their money at that rate.?
    When you and Thatcher talk about “other people’s money” you are talking about that .0001% who will never have to worry about paying the mortgage no matter how high they are taxed.
    Right now the official top tax rate is 35% but the actual EFFECTIVE tax rate paid since by the rich is 14%, the lowest in over 50 years .
    You’re spouting self-serving nonsense .

  • This post reminds me of the late Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher who said, ““The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Comments are closed.