Three things that the Cuban government does very well are (1) educate its people, (2) include cultural knowledge and the arts as part of the national curriculum; and (3) foster environments that are inclusive, from an early age.
The underpinnings of a society are best seen in the behavior of its children and Cuban children could not have been more engaging, enchanting and inclusive of a little girl who had no idea what they were saying. So below is a clip of three scenes: (1) Reflects the value Cubans place on providing an education that promotes critical thinking, strategic analysis, and active engagement (all children learn chess); (2) Reflects the high value placed on culture and the arts in Cuban society (this young girl attends a boarding school in Cienfuegos that specializes in classically trained musicianship (Cuban education is, by definition, State-run and free); and (3) Reflects the innate inclusiveness of Cuban children and how it extends outward to everyone (there is no fear here).
This is what makes Cuba unique in the world.
Welcome to the land bare-chested men and hemlines that end just below your butt cheeks. This is Cuba, where salsa music is usually playing in the background (even if rather faintly), the weather is steamy and the people can be even steamier (eye candy for days my friends).
Many times, the popular assumption in the US is that Cuban looks tend more toward Gloria Estefan rather than Celia Cruz. The fact is that Cubans are a kaleidoscope of brown, from the very fairest (slightly tan) to the darkest (mahogany). Come see for yourself.
In Camaguey we got to see something incredible, a sight rarely if ever seen in the US. This week the Feria de Libros, the national Cuban book fair, has come to Camaguey and it is all about books for sale in every corner, kiosk, free space available in town. Books for children and adults, history and philosophy, epic and revolutionary – take your pick of literally themes and you will surely find them here, in Spanish. And folks not only are the books available, they are inexpensive and priced within every Cuban’s budget.
Cuba, which has the 2nd highest literacy rate in the world ( according to a 2011 UN report), is a country of readers and this was evident by the long lines and excitement around all of the book kiosks, bookstores, and corners of random shops, cultural centers, churches and pet shops, that had tables and shelves stacked with books.
Feria de Libros is an annual event that happens in every city throughout the country for a least a week. So it is not just the “big city folks” that get to partake, even those in more rural areas get a week to revel in the majesty of literary abundance, diversity and affordability.
Purchasing books can be a cost prohibitive endeavor for those on a tight budget in the US, but the cost of books at the Feria range from 2 pesos (national) to 20 pesos (national). This is the equivalent of 8 to 80 cents (USD).
I got so excited, I wanted to pick some books out as well.