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Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

Cuba and the Rescue of Lost Values

March 18, 2014 | Print Print |

Dariela Aquique

Cuban junior high school students.

Cuban junior high school students.  Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s unpopular Round Table program, hoping to broaden its audience some, I imagine, has been airing a number of discussions on a weekly basis. Titled Sobre la mesa (“On the Table”), the segment focuses chiefly on social issues.

Recently, the segment dealt with current efforts at rescuing lost values in Cuban society and tried to analyze the deterioration of social conduct and the many expressions of social misconduct, impoliteness, indecency, vulgarity and other such phenomena that abound today.

Days later, my friend Alfredo sent me Devaluacion (“Devaluation”), an excellent post written by Yoani Sanchez, published on her blog Generation Y on March 7. Sanchez shrewdly diagnoses the real causes behind our current and disastrous situation, and I fully agree with her analysis.

I will quote some of her comments, adding my own points. I imagine readers will add their own, and so on and so forth.

Sanchez says: “(…) they also targeted religion, overlooking the fact that its different beliefs were also a means of conveying part of the ethical and moral values that have shaped human civilization and our own national traditions (…)”

We Cubans have traditionally been religious people. Since the first years of the revolution and until a long time afterwards, a declared intolerance towards religion prevailed in Cuba, such that no real freedom of religion could be spoken of.

The system and its dialectical materialism were in opposition to the idealist propensities of any religious creed. This even restricted the access believers had to certain university careers and social organizations.

It cannot be denied, however, that formal education and an interest in culture in general, vital to the healthy development of any society, are promoted at church or religious institutions. Nor can it be denied that these institutions encourage fraternity, mutual aid, respect and love towards others, and that young religious people are always better behaved in terms of social conduct.

So, who is to blame for having thwarted the growth of religious communities for decades?

Let us look at another point. Yoani says: “(…) they made us denigrate those who were different, insult the presidents of other countries with obscenities, mock historical figures from the past, stick our tongues out or make offensive gestures as we passed a foreign embassy (…)”.

I myself cannot recall more shameful public displays of vulgarity than those encouraged by the country’s leadership. In Santiago de Cuba, to give an example, people are allowed to stage conga lines during festive days or when the local baseball team wins the National Series.

In 1979, however, when former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (who died in 1980 while in exile in Paraguay) was overthrown, people were instructed to make conga lines down all of the city’s streets and to frenetically sing a ditty, which was something like: “Listen up, Somoza’s fallen, the guy with the rottin’ dick.”

To hurl insults and curses at people and physically attack them, as the masses were asked to do during those infamous retaliations of the 1980s, perpetrated against those who wanted to leave the country, is an indication of where the loss of ethical values may have actually started.

We are talking about a country that forbade The Beatles because of ideological reasons and promoted any seventh-rate crooner on the radio and television merely because they wrote revolutionary songs; a country that offered people a university education on the basis of their attitude towards the system and not on their real talent or intelligence. The list is endless – I’ll leave in the hands of commentators.

Now, the blame is being laid on families and schools, and we are told we must embark on a crusade to rescue our lost values. What are we talking about here?


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    It seems clear that the Brothers Castro are increasingly more aware of their own mortality and the impending date when they will have to stand before their maker to answer for their destruction of a beautiful country and its culture. This recent push to reverse the decades-long decline in morality in Cuba will offer little redemption for the Beasts from Biran for their role in banishing religion and expelling or imprisoning men of God. What has taken two generations to lose will likely take at least that long to gain back. Another sad legacy of the Castro dictatorship.

    • Dan

      The Beasts from Biran ? Good one. BTW, wasn’t Rios – Montt, feted by Reagan, a born again Christian ? I would say Fidel was 1000x the Christian either Reagan or Rios were, even if he’s not a believer.

      • Moses Patterson

        Don’t paint Christians as pacifists. The Bible is replete with Christian warriors. The measure is on whose account does the leader go to battle. Reagan (I choose not to defend Rios-Montt) made decisions based on his ideology of freedom and democracy. Castro casts his lot among those who sought power and control over others at the expense of freedom and democracy. Looked at from this enlightened perspective, it is easier to see who will have some ‘splainin to do at the Pearly Gates.

        • John Goodrich

          As Billy Graham said, you get into heaven based on your moral actions and not on just believing in the deity of Christ as you and dumb G.W. Bush think. .
          Reagan in invading Grenada and justifying it with 13 separate lies in the pre-invasion speech and in ILLEGALLY ( remember Iran-Contra?) destroying the Sandinista revolution and so much else HARDLY cared about democracy and freedom .
          Christopher Hitchens agrees with you that the Bible ( Old Testament) is replete with genocide, slavery and all manner of inhumanity to man but it is not until “Jesus, meek and mild” makes his appearance that the concept of punishment AFTER death becomes accepted thought.
          This “Christian” concept of eternal punishment sounds like your preferred way given your support for the ongoing U.S. embargo .
          See, you can go to church and pray for forgiveness for what you’re helping to do to the Cuban people but if there is an all-seeing and all-knowing God who judges people by their actions , you better hope you never die
          You are not following the teachings of Christ and Billy Graham says you’re going straight to Hell.
          This might be a good time for you to go with atheism.
          We don’t worry about Hell.

          • Moses Patterson

            The key word is ‘moral’ actions. As an atheist, you set your moral compass based upon personal experience. A Ugandan may see his strong anti-gay beliefs as moral. A child raised by gay parents in New York is likely to believe something different. True Christians should configure our moral compass to the teachings of Christ. As an atheist, you are unable to interpret what a Christian considers moral as you do not share the Christian perspective. As you comment suggests, you are prone to misinterpret because you do not fully understand. Faith in Christ is manifested by works, but works without faith is worthless. Sounds like gobbledegook to you I’m sure. Since you have neither a heaven or hell to send me to and you are not assigned the responsibility of deciding where I will go, why waste you time suggesting that you know? I would be more concerned about my own eternity if I were you.

    • John Goodrich

      Fidel Castro retired from office about six years ago and does not participate in governing the country.
      His “Reflections” column is now his way of talking to the Cuban people and these columns deal with global and environmental issues most often .
      Religion does not confer morality .
      As Christopher Hitchens used to ask his audience of people who think as you do;
      Name me a single act of kindness done for religious reasons that cannot be done by an atheist for simple moral reasons.
      THEN : Point out an act of evil that was done specifically for religious reasons.
      You would be very hard put to think of a single instance in answering part one and no problem at all coming up with a great many examples of part two.
      Your religious beliefs , like your political beliefs are based on myths, legends , outright untruths and what you have been told to believe since near birth.
      All atheists and anti-theists will absolutely love watching Christopher Hitchens on You Tube .
      Request ” Christianity is false and immoral ” (Hitchens) and watch that 12:59 minute destruction of the basis of Christianity .
      Believers will do well to avoid watching it and hearing answers to questions they never thought about.

      • Griffin

        Plenty of evil has been committed in the name of religion, but you have to admit, at least as much evil has been committed in the name of atheism.

        Furthermore, it must be pointed out, the very term you used, “evil” has no meaning to an atheist. Evil is by definition a concept of religious belief.

  • CUBAQUS

    Che’s “new man” is one that takes a job not for what he can earn or contribute but for the additional “benefits” he can get.
    People are willing to participate in acts of repudiation and attacks to get some small advantages.
    Neighbors steal from neighbors.
    The destruction of civil society and social values will be the worst legacy of the Castro regime as it puts any recovery at risk.

  • Chuck1938

    An oversimplification of a grave and urgent matter, that must be dealt diligently and decisively in Cuba, needs to be supported by facts, evidence and proven conclusions, not by perceptions, political bias or ignorance.

    If the serious social breakdown afflicting Cuba today, was due to past limitation or denial of religion, life in the United States would be a panacea, because it has one of the world highest per capita of churches, religious schools, religious institutions and a religious pledge is in order, to access every public office.

    In order to understand this complex myth, it would require we attempt to compare oranges with oranges,not Oranges with Apples. If we did that, New York city could become a prime laboratory, because it happens to be, one of the most racial, ethnic, social, sexual, intellectual, national, cultural and literally diverse community in the world.

    A walk through Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx or Long Island on any bright Spring, Summer or Fall Sunday morning, produces a mix and conflicting result.

    In Manhattan we find large, beautifully ornate cathedrals which are monuments to arts, architecture and opulence mostly empty, which are generously supported by the wealthiest community in the country, who are too busy to spend their Sunday morning in church, having mansions, yachts, helicopters, golf, tennis courts and spa in the Hamptons in Long Island and some with unlimited access to every type of legal or illegal fun.

    Churches in Staten Island at 11:00 AM, have a better attendance by their mostly middle class white congregation, which reminds us, that America most segregated hour continues to be Sunday at 11:00 AM.

    Queens with it’s highly diverse community has hundreds of churches of every possible nationality and denominations, which are well attended, especially those catering to Korean and Hispanic working class congregation.

    In Brooklyn, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, especially in the predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, thousands of church buildings, remodeled and transformed store-fronts into churches and every commercial building that goes out of business, are rapidly turned into denominational or non-denominational churches are packed, overflowing at three or more masses on each Sunday, Wednesday and sometimes another day of the week.

    What makes the people living in the Upper Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, City and State Jails more religious than those living in the vicinity of Madison, Fifth or Lexington Avenue in New York City?

    The only conclusion that can be extrapolated from these disparities is that those living in Manhattan as opposed to those living in the Bronx and elsewhere, have had their prayers answered while those in the ghetto are still hoping to be heard.

    May I conclude this empirical analysis by interjecting a few factors that some attribute to the lack of religion, faith, morality, values and other unproven hypothesis.

    Is violent crime, prostitution, drug addition, school drop-out, murder, rape, robbery, corruption, kick-back, bribe, gambling and police brutality better,worse or the same in religion-deprived Cuba or in religion-saturated New York, Chicago or Los Angeles?

    • Moses Patterson

      Well done. To the uninformed reader, yours is a compelling argument. However, to believers, your comment fails to incorporate the differences of subcultures and racial traditions on the manifestations of moral decline. Also, if you believe in God, you must believe that there is a devil. And the strategy of the devil on different peoples and different communities differs greatly. What distracts and condemns a tribal wife in a jungle in Indonesia is different than what distracts and condemns a trophy wife on the Upper East side Manhattan. Finally, Cuba’s moral decline is relative only to Cuba’s past experiences and does not compare fairly to what a Latino community is experiencing in East Los Angeles.

  • Monzon Cubano

    If a visitor goes to the theaters in Cuba, he will find a common denominator in every single play: the director has to insert a condemnation to the USA, even if it the play has nothing to do with politics, was written in Europe 200 years ago or it is about love, music and dancing.

    But the visitor will be also annoyed to see in many plays male actors naked in the middle of the stage and shaken their penes in front of an audience that can only wonder why is that needed.

    Very disgusting… shame on the Cuban politician for sending the Cuban culture to such an low moral level.