The Flower Seller- Diego Rivera
The ESBE was highly valued when it emerged from an idea of Fidel Castro himself, who maintained his direct and daily influence over the newly born project. This meant unlimited support from the State, and an abundance of any goods and resources that were needed. The ESBE was a “Fidel Plan”, one of the many famous ones- under the same mode of operation- that in the long run intended to develop in the most dissimilar of national countrysides and those other sectors that awoke its interest. From agriculture to sports, public health to the genetic vaccine. It was under one of these sporadic cycles that the schools in the countryside were created.
A few schools were constructed with the best conditions in appropriate locations, like the so-called “Sierra del Agua” (‘Mountain-ridge of Water’), located near Havana. The courses began with very good students and there was not an obligatory attitude, for entrance into such schools was at first optional. The internal students consisted of those whom had already completed the ninth grade and had, at their convenience, the best resources and very experienced personnel that were in charge of their education. Along with excellent teachers, they also relied on a good and balanced diet and since it was a case of rigorous activity- in the beginning- a good amount of attention was placed upon working in the fields. A doctor and a nurse had been assigned to each one of these educational centers, where a voluntary summon had been made to look for professionals who had the necessary conditions for such a project. With all these elements, parents and their children alike were greatly motivated towards the formation of these schools.
Because it was of interest to the maximum authority, the groups from the party would also keep a close watch on these new schools, making sure that they were functioning properly. The Commander in Chief himself could show up at any given moment to check up on the progress of his project. In fact, an inaugural congress was organized, which included his presence and also the personal participant of the newly emerging educational model. When the initial magnificent results began to be produced, along with them came praises and triumphant reports. The pilot plan had succeeded and now it was enough to generalize the idea, even though they sadly lacked the majority of the ingredients that shaped their first steps.
In the end, it was the degraded idea that the people received. The ESBEs were actually used as display cabinets for the image of the Chief of State. A procession of personalities then began to enthusiastically demonstrate their support for the novelty education of such centers. At first, Soviets and Czechs could be seen occupying the platform during public acts infront of the students. Later, some representations of African leaders would also appear. Actually, they even managed to get two governing figures from the West interested in the project- The Prime Ministers of Canada and Sweden. The everyday Cuban has a totally idyllic image of Canada; the simple mention of the country’s name evokes images in the heads of those who believe the notion that it is just like “the Yuma (US) but with much less drugs and street violence”. It must be emphasized that for decades, on official Cuban media, not a single disturbance was reported happening in that cold country- No hugner strikes, no public confrontations, and not even protests against racial segregation or the Vietnam War, and much less images of Canadian police forces trampling over protesters, which was a recurrent theme when it came to their southern neighbors.
If the principal of a Cuban countryside school found out that his center was to be sponsored by Canada, he would immediately be filled with euphoria. You had to see how the students would wave their red and white flags before the presidential caravan. This similarly occured with the beautiful Sweden, whose Prime Minister visited Cuba and sponsored various ESBECs and from then on there rose Cuba-Canada and Cuba-Sweden schools. I do not doubt that Pierre Trudeau and Olof Palme were great personalities in their respective countries and that they traveled to Cuba with the best intentions, but upon seeing them so enthusiastically supporting a project which we knew was just another mechanism of totalitarian oppression that was harming us, we began to conclude that they also supported everything else that occured here, even though they were representatives of countries that enjoyed freedoms which were denied in Cuba. It’d be worth asking if they were adding their (not little) prestige to the cause of Fidel Castro and all his acts. Perhaps the appearance of their private conversations, behind closed door, was something else but what transcended to the people did not prove otherwise.
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