By Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad
HAVANA TIMES, July 18 – Hasan, a restless Cuban boy who runs around the yard from one end to the other several times a day, doesn’t know why children have a specific day in their honor.
Tatiana asks if the date can’t be changed to her birthday, as if she’s convinced her childhood will last eternally.
Pepito doesn’t say anything; he only hopes that on Sunday they’ll take him to the park or to the beach to enjoy the giant waves full of white foam.
I try to remember. I don’t know if I knew when I was a little girl – I imagine I did – but at this point in life I’m not able to answer the question: Why does Cuban Children’s Day take place on the third Sunday in July?
A 64-year-old neighbor offered her assistance: On July 6, 1973, President Fidel Castro, along with Army Chief Raul Castro and other top leaders of the Cuban communist party, met with representatives of the Pioneers children’s organization from throughout the entire country. It was then that they decided on that date.
But the father of a friend clarified to me that July 6 was chosen first, but Fidel thought this was an error and changed it.
Curiosity compelled me to search more, and I found the speech delivered by the commander-in-chief to the Pioneers at Lenin Park. The occasion was the celebration of Children’s Day on July 6, 1974 before a group of Pioneers. This explained everything:
“… previously, Children’s Day was on January 6, do you remember that? (we’ve already forgotten this, they were old traditions). But that was not during vacation time, children were still in school; it was not the best time of the year for Children’s Day, or for toys, or for having a good time.
“So the Revolution made a decision: ‘We will change the date, we have it in July; but what day in July?’ We said: ‘Well, like it was, on the 6th, will we have it on July 6.’ But do you know what we discovered? – that we made a mistake when choosing that date…”
The mistake was based on the fact that classes had still not ended on July 6. In those years, Children’s Day involved the distribution of toys, and it was feared that it was not a good idea to mix exams with kid’s games. Children would prefer to have a good time instead of studying for their exams.
Fidel explained why it had to be on Sunday (the day the family gathered and when there was no work). He said, “… if it doesn’t fall on Sunday, Children’s Day will not bring happiness to the home…” This prompted the Pioneers to decide that it should be on the third Sunday of July.
Relieved, because the children themselves came up with the solution to the problem, Fidel said, “As you are here representing all of the Pioneers of Cuba, if you are in agreement we will propose to the Party and to the revolutionary government that we act boldly and make this change, right? (exclamations of ‘Yes!’) Because to make change it is necessary to be brave in making those changes, right? (exclamations of ‘Yes!’) We don’t have to continue with things when they’re wrong; it’s necessary to rectify them and to fix them! (exclamations of ‘Yes!’).”
So the change was made, and since that time it has taken place on that day. “Those who agree, raise your hands (they raised their hands). Correct! Unanimously, we will propose the change to the Party and to the revolutionary Government: Instead of the 6th, it will be on the third Sunday of every July (exclamations and applause). And with that, the “Day of the Child” will be closer to the 26th (referring to the July 26, National Rebelliousness Day), Cuba’s most important holiday. Everybody will be cheerful, everybody happy, a fiesta for everybody,” said Fidel Castro.
After so many years, toys are no longer distributed to the kids on the third Sunday in July. On the contrary, the price of a baseball mitt or a toy boat gets higher every day. Yet they continue to play in the yard, they continue to believe that childhood is eternal, or they simply wait for this or that day when someone will take them to the park or to the beach to enjoy the giant waves full of white foam.
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