Are Cubans Watching too Many “Junk Movies” at Home?

By Cafe Fuerte

Miguel Barnet (left) alongside ex-spy Gerardo Hernandez, recently appointed vice rector at Havana’s Advanced Institute of International Relations.
Miguel Barnet (left) alongside ex-spy (and Cuban 5 member) Gerardo Hernandez, recently appointed vice rector at Havana’s Advanced Institute of International Relations.

HAVANA TIMES — Writer Miguel Barnet recently complained about young Cubans choosing to stay at home watching “so many junk movies” rather than taking part in Cuba’s rich cultural programming.

“We’re a country that has created so many opportunities so that we don’t have to sit at home watching tons of junk movies… I’m sad to see that, today, many young people don’t participate in our cultural programs at theatres, conferences or at poetry recitals,” said Barnet, the president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and member of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee.

The 76-year-old Barnet’s statement came during one of the conferences held during a meeting of the National Committee of Cuba’s Young Communists League (UJC), who were analyzing youth participation in Cuban cultural policy.

Barnet stated that a lot still had to be done in order to encourage new generations to get involved with Cuba’s cultural activities, “that they engage themselves, that they protect our collective memory because a country without culture is like a tree without its roots.”

The Government’s Standard-bearers

Along with Barnet, Abel Prieto also took part in this meeting. Prieto is Raul Castro’s adviser and has become the government’s standard-bearer in the field of culture. Both intellectuals are taking the lead at meetings and conferences dedicated to reaffirming history, socialist ideology and independent cultural values in the face of an avalanche of capitalist society symbols, especially after President Barack Obama visited the island.

Picking up on approaches covered at recent meetings, Prieto warned those present of the need to be more alert about those who seek to break down values, traditions and history on a daily basis, with the aim to “undermine the Cuban spirit.”

“Dangers are becoming more real now, because emerging platforms allow new channels for consumption. Culture unites all of us revolutionaries who want to defend socialism,” Prieto said.

He also added that “this poses a huge threat to continuing values of the Revolution and its great emancipatory project.”

The First Vice President and possible successor to Raul Castro, Miguel Diaz Canel Bermudez, also took part in the discussions.

On consumer society

According to official press reports, the 103 members of the UJC’s National Committee reflected upon their role in creating “good taste” and encouraging a strong general culture amongst the population, so as to tackle “these pseudo-cultural products and patterns that consumer societies reproduce and impose.”

Issues discussed included: the crisis in values, aesthetic education, new technologies, the internet, symbols and the weekly audiovisual package.

Amongst those present were some young figures who are well-known on social media for their revolutionary spirit, such as psychologist Sucelys Morfa Gonzalez, second secretary to the UJC’s National Committee and renowned for her fanatical revolutionary ranting at the 5th Summit of the Americas held in Panama; as well as Yusuam Palacio Ortega, president of the Jose Marti Youth Movement.

The report presented by the UJC’s National Bureau, revealed that the uneven cultural war that opposing ideologies impose on us is growing because many children, teenagers and young people idolize celebrities from consumer society and look up to them.

The document sadly informs its readers that youth in Cuban society today associate success mainly with material possessions, more than they do with spiritual conquests.

The Internet debate

The UJC Plenary Meeting ended this Saturday after two days of debates at the Lazaro Pena Convention Center, in Havana.

On the last day, there was a call to use new technologies and social media to publish the UJC’s strategic report and to prepare student leaders – via training courses – so that they are able to interact more in forums on the internet.

Delegate Ricmar Rodriguez Gutierrez, president of the Youth Technical Brigades, criticized the fact that young people weren’t able to use facilities with internet access because of “internal administrative decisions”, and urged the UJC to get involved in resolving this matter.

After all of the debates, the UJC National Committee endorsed documents sent out by the 7th Cuban Communist party congress, which took place in April, and will be subject to national consultation: The Conceptualization of Cuba’s social and economic model and the National Plan for Economic and Social Development 2030.

13 thoughts on “Are Cubans Watching too Many “Junk Movies” at Home?

  • Just as another aside, one of my uncles who was commissioned directly from the Officers Training Corps at the University of Aberdeen to become a member of the British Expeditionary Force, subsequently spent five days on the beach at Dunkirk prior to being picked up by one of the fleet of little boats.
    Few remember just how alone the British were when France not only capitulated but the resignations of leaders resulted in France at one time having no government and no army commander.
    It is also perhaps appropriate to quote a poem by Colonel John McCrae the Canadian who also wrote ‘In Flander’s Fields’ and who himself died in France in January 1918:

    I left to earth, a little maiden fair,
    With locks of gold and eyes that shamed the light,
    I prayed that God might have her in his care,
    And sight.

    France was fortunate in having its British allies and later others come to its rescue in two world wars.
    The interesting subject that this raises is when should other nations carry out military intervention in other countries, should mutual defence treaties be supported?

    My own British generation was affected by both World Wars, our teachers at school were single middle aged women whose fiances and boy friends had been killed in the First World War and we ourselves were subject to the absence of our fathers in the military services, to bombing and to evacuation.
    But the fight for the retention of freedom and liberty from oppression is one which causes concern for those like the people of Cuba who have yet to achieve either. I know that there are those academic type theorists who will decry what I have written, but they are almost invariably without experience of the reality.

  • that’s pretty good…

  • If, perchance, your sideways comment is directed at me, be advised. I used to live in Cuba and I am married to a Cuban. I visit Cuba frequently and hang out with lots of Cuban friends. Don’t be so defensive! Besides, if you know anything about Cuba yourself, you know that the Castros try to mindf*ck Cubans all the time.

  • exactly! folks who’ve never touched Cuban soil and who are out of touch with the realities of life down there are always the first to comment with their ‘well thought out resolutions’ to all of Cuba’s problems. que va.

  • Yes, Soviet citizens, more frequently in Moscow and Leningrad, read classics on public transport. This had two sides.

    It not, of course, the wide range of books we both want. Carlyle mentions the absence of Pasternak’s Zhivago in Cuba. It was also officially absent the USSR until 1988, when, serialised, it was a sensation of course.
    A side effect of Pasternak’s inability to publish his best works at home, he took up translation: the quip was that his Shakespeare was better than the original.

    In the 21st Century surely it would have been far harder for the Soviet government to foster the wonderful appetite for culture they did — with more competition from alternatives online.
    . Culture was also a powerful weapon of Soviet “soft power” in the way that health is for Cuba.

    I still think that open competition for attention could be achieved just by opening up the discussion more widely. Formerly forbidden fruit has great appeal, as does discussion and debate. The atmosphere in the USSR in 1987 can only be described as heady. It is not what led to the end of the USSR, but that is a conclusion which is often wrongly drawn.

  • Everyone outside the British isles gets ‘British’ and ‘English’ confused.

    Appropos of nothing in particular, a joke: two Scots soldiers standing in the queues at Dunkirk, waiting to be evacuated. One says to the other, “You know, if the English surrender … it’s going to be a long war.”

  • An interesting list Ken. Just as an aside, having visited Haworth the moors around it and the Bronte Vicarage which looks out over the somewhat gloomy cemetery, I can comprehend why the sisters wrote the novels for which they are justifiably famed.
    Regarding Shakespeare and as I as a Scot attended an English school, I always enjoyed the line from Henry V in his speech prior to the Battle of Agincourt:

    “and block up the gap with our English dead.”

    My amusement used to infuriate my English classmates.

    As for Bertrand Russell, although a much respected philosopher, his personal life was a mess.

  • You make a good point. A range of books is important. It was important to me in my teens when i was able to find Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell in my local library. And this was in a small town with a strong religious presence.

    I googled the world’s greatest books and came up with this list. It would be interesting to know how US and Cuban universities compare in the availability of these books.

    I was told that in the Soviet Union, even under a stultifying bureaucracy, Soviet citizens could be seen on the subway reading great classics of European literature.

  • Whereas the Cuban cultural leaders may wish to open the eyes of young people to the whole world of literature, doing so is not possible. Only books vetted by and accepted by the regime are available. For example, the writings of Boris Pasternak including Doctor Zhivago are banned. One only needs to read the books used in the schools, to understand that the regime has re-written history.

  • How does the old saying go: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and completely!

  • Cubans are no different than anyone else. They sometimes seek relaxation and escape in light entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with that.
    And Cuban cultural leaders are no different than cultural leaders elsewhere who want to open the eyes of young people to a whole world of literature and art that they are currently lacking. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • That Moses is a perfect summation!

  • The Cuban ‘Thought Police ‘ are at it again.

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