by Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez
I was a teenager of sixteen and was in the eleventh grade, I was happy to study and work hard to achieve good grades, I was nearing the university and needed, in addition to good marks, to be endorsed by the Communist Party of the center where I was studying, the Youth wing of the Party, the Federation of High School Students, and at the very end, the faculty who taught me the different subjects.
To achieve this goal we students had to participate in all the “political” and cultural activities, the voluntary work, the schools in the countryside, and when a ceremony or parade was organized, very important was participating in the numerous marches for May Day, International Workers Day, Defense Sundays, days dedicated to the preparation and training of teenagers to know how to defend themselves in case of war, and we had to be ready to fight for the country and the conquests of Socialism.
Among the many subjects they taught us, there was always one where my grade average always fell ominously, called “Integrated Military Preparedness,” although the boys called it by its acronym, PMI. I never had a talent for military affairs, I dragged myself badly through the dirt or mud, and I was always the last to overcome the obstacles that we planted on the road.
If I managed to disassemble the machine gun which was our guinea pig, later there was no way to put each piece in the exact spot where it had been, not to mention that I found it almost impossible to memorize all the theory of this subject we received. We seemed like real toy soldiers as we marched along, I think it was the exercise we did best, we had the rhythm of a rhyme the teacher taught us, I was laughing hearing it and not repeating it because it had a bad word: “One, two, three, four, eating sh… and spending shoe leather.”
At the end we always said the motto of our class that ended with the phrase: “Ready for the defense,” but we were sure that this army of youth was not ready to face any war and on the other side unconsciously we saw as very remote the possibility that this would happen.
Another requirement is also measured in the evaluation was the participation in competitions, as I liked to study, especially subjects related to the chairs of Humanities, I could certainly meet this requirement, I participated in any contest I could: History of Cuba, Spanish Language and Literature and even Marxist Philosophy.
It was at a Municipal Contest I met the strangest professor of Marxism I can remember. I spent a week preparing for the competition, and had a long pamphlet memorized from beginning to end, including the survey questions some of which related to the application of Marxism in our context of socialism and communism. I remember how we rehearsed the answers until we managed the emotional desired to impress the jury, most of the time it worked, but to my amazement that day did not happen, but instead I was embarrassed and confused for a while.
At that time the competition jury had only one member, a middle-aged teacher of Marxism sitting behind a table adorned with a white cloth and a jar full of red flowers, who explained that other teachers were facing personal situations and not wanting to delay the date of the contest they had agreed that he would listen and would rate the contestants.
I felt somewhat relieved, this jury with one member would be a breeze for me. I explained the whole pamphlet I had learned by heart says earlier and when I finished, so excited I almost expected applause and congratulations, the teacher stared at me with searching eyes and said: “Among the many things you have said, only one catches my attention and so I wanted to ask about it, and that is saying that the streets and squares in Cuba only belong to the Revolutionaries; would not it be better for them to belong to all Cubans?”
I tried to defend myself, the result of the contest was at stake. “No,” I replied, “this country has been conquered by the Revolutionaries and they alone have the right to walk the streets and speak in the plazas.”
The teacher followed each of my gestures with his eyes until he asked again: “What would you do to a Cuban who declared in the streets and plazas that he was not a revolutionary and clearly establishing your reasons?”
I didn’t know where to get my ideas, that question was not in the pamphlet and I had not memorized it and so I remained silent for some seconds, a silence that permeated us both, until the teacher said to me: “We must learn to respect our fellow citizens and we must also learn to share our streets and squares, keep in mind that Cuba is all Cubans.”
That day of competition was very unusual, and I didn’t win as I was used to doing, but although I never knew what the teacher’s ideas were, his words penetrated me deeply, and sometimes I that disguised teacher was an angel that the Lord sent to help me reflect on the reality of my country and that we all have the right to participate in building our society.
This man risked a lot to talk to me in this way, I could have complained to the officials or other teachers of my school, but I didn’t, however every time I saw a parade or was listening to a speaker in the stands, I remembered his words.
Yes, I’m sure now that the streets and squares must by necessity belong to all honest Cubans in this country, and the monochromatic tone with which they are painted should be changed to various shades of freedom and democracy.
I finished high school and was approved to go to college, but only today do I feel supported by dignity, my language has changed and my decision to express my desire to live in a different and fuller Cuba than that made by the Communists and their dictatorship, is, at every moment, more firm and irrevocable.
December 23 2011