Cautious Optimism / Fernando Dámaso

1. Once again small businesses have begun to appear all over the city, even on my Tulipan Avenue, where only five months ago they were wiped out. It’s like a weed no one can kill, but in this case weeds that should never die, and that should be transformed into strong and leafy trees, with well-established roots to resist the battering of the cyclones that are sure to come. Depending on the possibilities of each one, some better conceived than others, but all with the desire to prosper, something innate in human being. It is to start again.

2. We must look on their resurgence with optimism, although we can’t be too confident in their permanence. We have already seen several negative experiences previously (remember the “Kingbird On The Wire*” operations against the artisans and artists in the Plaza of the Cathedral, Adoquin and Maceta, against the self-employed, and others, to cite some of the glaring examples). Reality obliges us to be cautious. Some people have already begun to blame them for some of the product shortages in the stores.

3. Analyzing what’s in writing and talking about it with the self-employed, their efforts arise from the necessity to save the drowning, from conviction of the advantages, and we discover that to launch such a business they must pay the state between 30% and 35% in taxes on profits, spend (it’s calculated) up to 40% on expenses (legal proof must be provided for half), and earn not more than 25% (not enough to get rich). In other words, the State appropriates 75%, in one form or another (through expenses, that include energy, materials, etc purchased from the state, the only source and one that sets exorbitant prices), and the self-employed person gets 25%. Not even the demonized savage capitalism acts like this.

4. It’s as if someone on the point of drowning asks for help and his savior demands that he buy the rope and the life jacket with which he will be rescued, and at a fixed price. It would be absurd. As we can see, the self-employed, despite what they say, is still seen as an undesirable traveling companion, an ideological enemy, someone being used because there is no alternative, with the intention of disposing of him as soon as possible. It continues to focus on the failed socialist enterprise, that has never functioned anywhere where it has been tried. It is the contradiction between the efficient and productive and the inefficient and unproductive.

5. Despite these concerns, it’s healthy that something has started to move, even if the movements are minimal and with many strings attached. In short, the creature, if is manages to gain strength and develop itself, little by little it will be capable of freeing itself and picking up speed.

*Translator’s Note: A kingbird (pitirre in Spanish) is an aggressive little bird that will attack larger birds and even people. “A kingbird on the wire” is a common Cuban expression warning that someone is eavesdropping, or there is a snitch, with bad intentions.

Translated by Ariana

January 29 2011

Addiction to Prehistory / Fernando Dámaso

Some days ago, a public propaganda billboard, demanding the liberation of five sanctioned Cubans who are serving out sentences in American prisons, appeared in Miami; it was front-page news in the daily Granma, which also made propaganda points of the tours of Cuban artists, residents of the island, through the States. All this is noteworthy and good. It was a commitment to the necessary tolerance, although the billboard is gone and some protests have sprung up against the artists. It’s understandable, after so many years of missed connections. It would be fair that it should happen here, and that it would receive equal propaganda; some billboard demanding liberation of the political prisoners, and that artists who live abroad and are prohibited in Cuba, could offer concerts and their music could be transmitted by radio and television.

Around this time, also in the same daily, an official notice appeared, repudiating the meeting of the American delegation’s representatives — which participated in the discussions about migratory accords — with some Cuban dissidents, calling them mercenaries and repeating the old slogans against imperialist interventionism. It calls attention, as is already the practice of the Cuban government, to those who govern and represent it, that when they visit whatever country — including the United States — they meet with those who oppose the established government, and even organize and participate in public propaganda acts. It seems valid in some cases and in others not.

A defrocked functionary, who used to move about in the ideological sphere, hypothesized once that, in order to conduct dialog, it was indispensable that those who participated should respect each other, and bring with them to the dialog two suitcases: one to receive and the other to give. I don’t know if this hypothesis sped up his dismissal.

It seems to be a smart and simple formula, although facts demonstrate its non-acceptance by those who live anchored in a political prehistory, masking it over with a behind-the-times patriotism which — instead of opening roads towards understanding — shows a commitment to confrontation and violence, abandoning the necessary union of all Cubans, to live wherever they might and think however they will.

The superficial measures that are applied to the economy and which — with the passage of time and propelled by reality — become more profound each time, must also be accompanied by changes in policy, as much internally as externally, more pragmatic and compliant with current times. They are necessary to save the nation.

Translated by: JT

January 20 2011

A Fine Line / Fernando Dámaso

  1. When in a society fear find itself enthroned, there is a tenuous line that separates it from valor, doubt gets hold of citizens who start questioning how far they can go without being punished.
  2. Under such circumstances one opts for not taking too many risks and for self censorship as a means not really civic but so convenient to survive while waiting for better times
  3. This moral ambiguity hurts the individual consciousness and contaminates the social one, creating an ideal breeding ground for people without their own opinions, more concerned with repeating what has been approved and established, rather than with raising questions.
  4. Examples can be seen daily in our media, when someone is interviewed or asked to answer an intelligent question. The answers oscillate between utter vagueness and the exact repetition of slogans and clichés. Generally, what is said or written is not what is thought or felt, easy to detect when establishing a personal dialogue without interference from the media.
  5. This abnormal, unnatural and unhealthy situation does not help clear the way for solving our many problems, but complicates it. One needs to decide to cross the thin line between fear and courage.

Translated by: d

November 28 2010

Falcor / Fernando Dámaso

My dog Falcor, or rather my son Anibal’s dog, died in the early morning hours of the tenth or eleventh of August. On the 31st he would have been 18 years old, a really long life for a canine. His body was buried in the patio of the Ayestarán house, along with those of other beloved mascots who passed away earlier. At least he’s not alone, his soul is already in dog heaven. He accompanied me faithfully all these years, always noble, always loving, always playful. In reality, from the first meeting we recognized each other: In the house of some friends near the Tropicana, along with his siblings when he was fifteen days old, he broke away from his brothers and with faltering steps approached Anibal, then 9, and tried to climb up his legs. When the owner asked us, “Which one do you want?” the answer was obvious.

From that day we called him Falcor because he reminded us of the dog-dragon in The Neverending Story. He was a cocker mix.He shared his joys and sorrows. He liked to play: Stealing toys, chewing the innards out of stuffed animals, chewing on shoes, catching balls and marbles and bringing them to us to relentlessly continue the fame. He responded to the command, “Closer!” approaching any object. Until almost his last days he was capable, although his reactions and movements had slowed, he walked like Charlie Chaplin, and he was nearly blind. I watched him fade away, like a candle burning out, and I was sad. Still, he had time to say goodbye to Anibal in June, during his flying visit. I continued caring for him, determined not to hasten his death, waiting for it to happen naturally. Luckily that is how it turned out.

He left a great emptiness and made me think about the relativity of time. We shared those 18 years and it seems to me they went too fast. I remembered the puppy, entertaining everyone, now grown and gravely ill, fighting for life during fifteen terrible days, with antibiotics and daily serum, watching him sleep, lying down and not getting up until the moment when he surprised me one morning with a bark. By the afternoon we was up on all fours running around the house, perhaps more cheerful and playful than ever. His greetings at the door, walks together, his travels, love for children. In my years of solitude he was my only companion, day after day.

At night he lay down next to my bed, and when I felt sick, he knew it. Giving up his solitude he was able to adapt to the companionship of Putica, Rebeca’s little female dog. They would compete to run to the door first any time someone visited. Putica died and we got Lucky, the new little female we found in the street, and he adapted to her and her street-wise misbehavior. I think she was his greatest joy in his later years and gave him a new zest for life. He was rejuvenated. Together they ran to the roof, fought over toys (his favorite was the plastic hippopotamus), barked at all the neighboring dogs and at Mitsukusu, the house cat, when he climbed on the eaves. He was good dog, generous and intelligent. More than a dog he was a great friend. Today I miss him. I spent 18 years of my life with him.

October 31, 2010

An Odd Kind of Tribute to the Flag / Fernando Dámaso

  1. A few months ago, amid a great fanfare of propaganda, the ashes of Emilia Teurbe Tolón were brought back and placed in a monument, built on land to the side of the main chapel in the Colombus cemetery, in the city of Havana. It was Teurbe Tolón who, in New York, towards the end of the first half of the 19th century, made the first Cuban flag, our national symbol since the Constitution of Guáimaro in 1869. Later she continued to work for the independence of Cuba. This tribute is well-deserved; it’s good to acknowledge our history.
  2. The odd thing about this recognition of the flag is that it was restricted to the person who made it, while the man who designed it, ordered it to be made, brought it to Cuba, unfurled it for the first time in Cárdenas, Matanzas (19-May-1850), fought for it, and died for it by the garrote in Havana (1-September-1851), was ignored. I refer to General Narciso López.
  3. Narciso López, of Venezuelan origin, who married in Cuba and lived there and in exile in the USA, has been a divisive figure in the history of Cuba. Both praised and criticised in the time of the Republic, depending on the political swings, during this extended period of more than 50 years he has been: either completely forgotten as a patriot or demonised as a supporter of annexation.
  4. The interesting thing about Narciso López is that, although he lived in a time in which the desire for independence was not supreme, but rather the demand for annexation and reform, he was not an annexationist, and no historian, of the right or the left, has been able to show that he was with any credible evidence.
  5. There is something which should not be forgotten: Narciso López, Venezuelan born, trained as a soldier in the Spanish army, he planned and fought for the independence of Cuba, (he was a pioneer in this, 20 years before Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and the Cubans took to the hills), he raised on Cuban soil, for the first time, the national ensign, and he gave his life for her bravely. He was a man of his time (1798-1851) and he deserves honour and glory, and to take his rightful place in the history of the Cuban nation.

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

November 18, 2010

A Difficult Verb to Conjugate / Fernando Dámaso

In some of my posts I have written about the need for tolerance in order to face each day in our difficult present, and confront whatever the future holds for us. Anchored in dogmatic positions, without the willingness to accept differences, there is very little we can accomplish. For many years, perhaps too many, this has been our biggest mistake. Thinking ourselves infallible, possessors of absolute truth, we have turned a deaf ear to the voices of others. The disastrous results are there for all to see.

A tolerant attitude of each citizen, whether occupying a position of management or amongst those at the bottom, would oxygenate our society, facilitate breathing and renew strength, ensuring the participation of all without exclusion of any kind, in the arduous task of restoring the nation.

If tolerance, discarding the fanatic attitudes that only leads to violence with its load of pain and resentment, is important today, how much more so will it be in the near future where all of us, those who are wrong and those who are not wrong, those who left and those who stayed, all those responsible to a greater or lesser degree for our situation, must work together, one day burying forever the differences that for many years have divided and separated us. Cuba is one, and all of her children form a part of Cuba, however they think.

To tolerate is not a verb that is easily conjugated. For too long it has been a cursed verb. To accept it and apply it in our conduct as citizens requires effort and, even more, the conviction of its necessity. But it is essential. Without it, the road to the reunification of citizens is impassable.

Citizen reunification is a necessity. Enough of watching each other as if we were enemies, of feeling happy at the misfortune of others, tripping each other up, of being two faced. Anyone who thinks differently is not a traitor, or a mercenary, or unpatriotic, or a lackey of the empire, or any other nonsense that is repeated daily. It’s just a citizen who thinks differently, and therefore, as worthy of respect as anyone else.

Translated by ricote

November 12 2010

A Path / Fernando Dámaso

  1. In a society where people are cataloged, principally by the political and ideological profile, grouping an entire population into two groups — the good and the bad — it is very difficult to talk.
  2. From this primary classification, everyone who is part of the good embodies the highest human qualities: patriotic, civic-minded, intelligent, honest, austere, brave, tender, humane, caring, and so on. Those who are part of the bad, embody the greatest defects: a traitor, antisocial, crude, dishonest, pompous, cowardly, cruel, inhuman, anti-solidarity, and so on. All in black and white, no shades.
  3. The stubborn reality, however, has often proved quite the opposite: the good ones are not so good nor the bad so bad. In history there are plenty of examples. Nothing is absolute and the qualities and defects are mixed in every human being.
  4. I prefer to accept people as they are: individuals with different political, ideological, religious, sexual, sporting and artistic preferences. Who judge for themselves. This allows me to talk with everyone and have many more friends than enemies.
  5. I don’t pretend to propose any recipe, they don’t work. It’s just a path to coexistence, one that has given me good results.

November 22 2010

Two Overused Words / Fernando Dámaso

  1. In my country there are two words, which have been endlessly abused: Before and After. Before, is everything that happened up to January 1, 1959; After is everything that has happened since that date up to today.
  2. In Before, as in a non-returnable deposit, are all the problems: betrayal, corruption, immorality, injustice, fraud, violence, theft, murder, harassment, lackeys, et cetera. All evil, everything that does not work, fits in this six-letter word.
  3. In After, as in a glass display case, also non-returnable, are all the virtues: honesty, austerity, good governance, respect, solidarity, patriotism, brotherhood, dedication, good deeds, and so on. Everything good, everything you need, in one five-letter word.
  4. These are the official definitions. So it has been and so it is repeated to each new generation, for more than fifty years. However, there is a third reality that belies the stubborn reality: both Before and After contain everything. Putting facts in compartmentalized historic boxes signifies more of an interest in politics and ideology than in objectivity, and is not healthy for the nation. It is confusing. These pure divisions don’t exist, and do not allow criticism, everything is ordered and accepted without question, and it becomes a real Pandora’s Box. When it is opened it does more harm than good. Reality has shown this.
  5. Moreover, viewed dialectically, Before and After constantly repeat themselves. In the last fifty years we have seen before and after the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, nationalization and expropriation, the failure of the Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest, Angola, Ethiopia, Grenada, the Mariel Boat Lift, the loss of the subsides from the former USSR, the passing of the presidential baton, and so on. Pretending that there is a one Before and one After is an absurdity. Many more have yet to come.

Recalling a Saying / Fernando Dámaso

  1. A Cuban television program called Art Site presented two shows dedicated to the beginnings of television in Cuba. In them, they interviewed some people who worked in that era, who expressed different opinions and told some anecdotes.
  2. A former beer model, who later became a dramatic actress, said that in the commercials she had to drink warm beer. The baseball games — supported by Hatuey beer and Partagas cigarettes — broadcast from the Cerro stadium where there was a gondola hanging from the ceiling with cabins for the sportscasters and a little space for making live commercials. There, they installed a cooler with bottled beer and malt, always cold, and a chest with boxes of cigarettes and tobacco to use during the commercials, and also for the consumption of everyone who worked there, free of charge. The commercials that were made at the CMQ studios were performed under better conditions.
  3. Another founder noted that before the studios were small and now they are larger. To my knowledge, for the last fifty years the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) has used the same studios previously used by CMQ, Channel 4, CMBF, Channel 7, Telemundo Channel 2, and Channel 12, which yes, is quite deteriorated and often lacks air conditioning, as evidence by the sweat on the presenters and guests on the live shows. It’s enough to see the ICRT building, formerly CMQ, to compare the accumulated deterioration; windows broken or non-existent, blinds missing, empty air conditioning holes boarded up with cardboard, wood and pieces of metal, chipped and missing paint, et cetera. If that’s the outside, I can imagine the inside.
  4. In the decade of the fifties, Cuban television was, after that of the U.S., the best and most innovative. Equipped with magnificent technology, it aired several flagship programs of different types: musicals, soap operas, theatrical dramas, comedy, sports, news, etc., and with a cast of of talented and highly professional artists and technicians.
  5. Today, Cuban television is not even a shadow of what it was in the fifties and early sixties. Absurdly politicized, poorly equipped, lacking the necessary resources (other than to make ideological programs), languishing like the rest of the country, waiting for better times. I want to believe that some of the opinions expressed on the Art Site program were affected by the poor memories of those interviewed. In any event, “people who tell lies should be very careful when eating fish,” as they saying goes… They might just find that the bones stick in their throats.

October 22, 2010

Neither Shields Nor Swords / Fernando Dámaso

  1. Often, in the name of a false defense of national identity and values, they have erected barriers that instead of protecting something what they have done is to isolate us and separate us from the rest of the world. In short, identity and national values have been formed by mixing customs and everything else, from different regions.
  2. Take, for example baseball, considered the national sport. It emerged in the United States and was played by Cuban expatriates in the colonial era, and they brought it with them on their return, until it became widespread and formed part of national identity. This did not happen with bullfights; practiced in the country in the nineteenth century, they discontinued from the early twentieth century. Water sports which had a great popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, were restricted with the triumph of the insurrection, given that the sea and everything having to do with it was considered a bridge with the United States, the eternal enemy. In this case, the political interests did not care about the identity and national values reflected in sports, or about our condition as water-rich archipelago, which would imply these sports should be practiced and prioritized and developed.
  3. In other countries, they have assimilated other sports events, art, etc., without losing their identity and national values, and attached them to their heritage, enriching it. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Holland, Italy, Egypt, etc. are good examples.
  4. We exclude and declare war on tennis, golf, equestrian sports and others, considered bourgeois although they had nothing to do with socialism. Like we did with the avant-garde in the sixties and seventies, prohibiting the Beatles and other groups and musicians, and their foreign their music, persecuting those who listen to them and accusing them of ideological deviation. This happened also with the visual arts, literature, theater, film and dance. All this happened and should not be forgotten, although the same people who banned the Beatles have allowed a statue of John Lennon, years later, in a park in El Vedado. These absurdities rather than enriching our identity and national values, impoverish it.
  5. Now, someone has come to the rescue of the national patrimony with the guayabera, the man’s shirt, widely used in the first half of the twentieth century and then less so. Now the leaders have started to wear it., I think it is a wasted effort, however, for its price (between forty-five and fifty convertible pesos for the linen or cotton ones and fifteen of polyester) are beyond the purchasing reach of the population (representing, in the first case of two to three months’ salary, and the second a month’s) and those who wear them are not exactly the people who the young people and less young people aspire to imitate. Identity and national values are enhanced when there are no restrictions and customs barriers or anything else, and we mix and merge in this global village where, for better or for worse, we must all live together. Isolation does not protect or defend anything. Instead of shields and swords what is needed are open arms.

November 7, 2010

Lawton Hill / Fernando Dámaso

So the adults called it in the far off years of my childhood. It was, and still is, along Giral street where it led to Dolores Avenue, near the old slaughterhouse. On one side, toward the railroad tracks, there was a huge metal water tank. It was one of the neighborhood kids’ favorite places. Going up the hill was like a great excursion. We always went with an older person, because we thought it was too far. We would go some Sunday, after lunch, as the sun was going down. We’d get ready and start walking along the winding paved road, which we called a street, between cattle farms, crossing the bridge of the tortoises. Our dogs would come with us. It was rich in stones and gravel and almost completely bare of trees; just small thorny bushes. We’d nimbly climb the natural terraces until we got to the top. Once there, we’d breath the pure fresh air of the heights, looking all around as far as we could see: to the side of the tank, the cattle trains heading for the slaughterhouse; toward Dolores Avenue, a few scattered brick houses; toward Giral street, land and more land with scented shrubs and more cattle; and behind us, small villages with dirt roads, adjoining El Moro castle.

We stayed there until late in the afternoon, looking across at the huge flocks of blackbirds on their daily flight from Managua, El Calvario and other places, to the trees in the Paseo del Prado and Fraternity Park, where they slept. There were days when we saw the Firestone or Goodrich blimp pass over, with signs painted on their gray sides, or trailing some enormous red banner with Coca Cola in white letters, or political propaganda for some candidate for mayor or president.

The road back was always longer than the way there (at least so it seemed), and in those childhood times the fear of ghosts instilled terror in us. Why bring up these memories. It happens that a few years ago, forty years after these happy and enthusiastic visits to the hill, by a twist of fate, after having been to many mountains in my own country and in Europe, Africa and Central America, I found myself back on that hill. It was not the same. It seemed small and insignificant, surrounded by a belt of poor settlements (much poorer than before). I did my work and, when everyone retired, I sat down to think. Like a strange hallucination, it seemed that my life had drawn an enormous circle back to the same starting point. It was a violent clash with the reality of the passage of time, and now retired and dedicated to writing, I revisited it. In reality, the existence of a person is made up of their successes and failures, their pleasant and unpleasant times, their usefulness and idleness, happiness and sadness. And so it has been for me as well, but of all the hills and mountains I have known, I prefer my Lawton hill as it was in my childhood.

October 25, 2010

So As Not To Forget / Fernando Dámaso

  1. Walking through the recently restored Plaza Vieja in the historic center of Havana, I noticed a large poster with photos with landslides, debris, garbage, etc., which read: SO AS NOT TO FORGET. I looked for some date and didn’t find any: when the photos were taken is not clear.
  2. I asked some of the young people, and not so young people, sitting at the El Escorial café nearby, if they knew what era the photos corresponded to, and without exception they said: before the Revolution.
  3. Respectfully, I explained to them that they were wrong, that before the Revolution there was an underground parking garage, a park, a cinema, a printers and stationery store, and different business all around the square, and that the photos correspond to the decade of the 1970s when all of Old Havana, due to abandonment, had become a huge slum, and they had to organize work teams and convoys of trucks to remove the accumulated trash and rubble from the building collapses and clear it away.
  4. I admire the City Historian and his collaborators for the magnificent work they have done and are still doing, often against all odds, faced with incomprehension and even lack of resources. I think it highly commendable to show each building or area as it was, before being restores, as this should help to raise awareness about the need for care and maintenance, but I also think that it is necessary, to avoid confusion, to clearly show the dates of the photographs on display.
  5. Without any bad intentions, only by omission, we could be contributing to further distorting the already misunderstood story.

The Misfortunes of Others / Fernando Dámaso

  1. The son of a friend, living in Sweden for years, with a Swedish family, sends an email with interesting photos of people in times of natural disasters and other such. The photos are heartrending, but what prompted this post are the texts that accompany them. Summaries indicate that there is always someone worse off; then why complain.
  2. I’ve never been conformist and consider the philosophy of conformity a waste. If as human beings we were conformists, we would still be living in the Stone Age, with none of the achievements, for better or worse, that exist today.
  3. Accepting our misfortunes, because there is someone in the world even more unfortunate, is an unacceptable attitude for someone with average intelligence. It is not looking down, but looking up, that leads to development. People aspire to excel and progress, and take not the losers as examples, but the winners. It is right and what has always happened.
  4. In my country, especially, we tried to make everyone equal in poverty and not in wealth. So we liquidated the rich and the wealth created, and turned them into poor citizens. So we achieved social equality. The formula is not original, and previously had been applied elsewhere, with similar disastrous results.
  5. I think if we ask Cubans who are here, or in Sweden, or another country, to not complain and accept our misfortunes quietly, as there are people in worse conditions in other countries, it causes inertia and stagnation, our two major ills. Fortunately, not too many people think this way. Being dissatisfied and struggling to leave our troubles behind, with our eyes on those who have made it, is a civic position. Our reality does not cloud our vision, a thing which, unfortunately, sometimes happens to those who are far away from it.

November 1, 2010

Help For Whom? / Fernando Dámaso

  1. I’ve always been aware that Support Groups for Solidarity with Cuba exist in different countries. Most are organized and staffed by the corresponding embassies and repeat the official propaganda, responding, like the legendary RCA dog, to the voice of their master.
  2. I prefer to believe that many of their members, if not some of their leaders, are honest people who feel they are doing something useful for the Cuban people. However, a fact that is well-defined in their respective countries — that there is a difference between a people and its government — is obviously absurd in the case of our country. Cuba is not only its government, but also the citizens who do and don’t support it and those who don’t opine.
  3. It seems that, unfortunately, the mixture of terminology coming from our country for many years now, where country, nation, socialism and party are synonymous, has crossed national frontiers and sparked confusion and chaos among our friends.
  4. I consider the Groups of Support and Solidarity necessary, but not with the government but with Cubans, with all Cubans without exception because, in one way or another, we all suffer the most serious scarcities and we are immersed in a national tragedy.
  5. Cuba, as a nation, is much more than an ideology or transitory politics, like everything human. Help and solidarity with Cuba is accomplished with the whole nation, not the government.

November 4, 2010

The Scolopi Fathers of La Víbora / Fernando Dámaso

In the half block between Flores Street and Correa and Encarnacion, in the La Víbora neighborhood, a modern and magnificent building was erected at the end of the forties for the Pious Schools. They also had schools in Havana at Manrique and San Rafael, in Guanabacoa, Pinar del Rio and Camaguey, all for boys. There was also one for female students in El Cerro.

I had the good luck to be among those who inaugurated the new facilities in La Víbora. I remember the majestic main entrance, the huge hall, the granite floor with the inlaid compass, and the tubular glass urns with the flags of Cuba and the school. Also, behind them, a long green granite bench, and on the floor there was a map of Cuba and the Caribbean, also in granite, and a large concrete patio surrounded by the galleries in a U-shape.

In my memory I can still see the spacious and airy classrooms, the library, dining room, chapel, the medical cabinet, and even the bathrooms on each floor. There were also vending machines for Coca Cola and candy. Nor have I forgotten the clean smell, the books, the polished wood and the colored chalk. These are all important memories of a personal nature.

The most valuable, however, was having had teachers such as Carlos Ruibó, Enrique Puente, Jorge Arango, José E. Caramés and the priests Angel Oliveras and Juan Capdevila, true teachers, who instilled in us the Pieta and Letters, the famous motto of San José de Calasanz, founder of the Piarist Order.

Today, many years later, I remember dear Father Oliveras, always restless, spending hours of Theology — by mutual agreement and with the doors closed — imparting knowledge about sex, answering our questions and clarifying our adolescent doubts. Also the time devoted to discussing the problems of the country and different issues in our society.

With the Scolopi Fathers we practiced thinking with their own heads, and I learned respect for the opinions of others and the value of tolerance, as well as the entire contents of the materials of different years. Unfortunately it has been many years since the Pious Schools have existed in my country, and its facilities are quite dilapidated, although they still exist in the rest of the world. I hope for their return, at least so that my grandchildren or the children of my grandchildren, can reassume this generational educational chain, which never should have been broken.

October 19, 2010