The Children of Cuba

I don’t know what it is about me (or maybe it’s just womanly instincts in general), but I love children more than anything. I constantly flip back and forth with what I actually want to do with the rest of my life but having my own family and having children has been the only thing I can remember that’s never changed since I was a little girl. Children fascinate me. I think mostly because they provide their own brilliant rendition on the outlook of life if you’re wise enough and willing enough to listen to them. Children see things that adults often overlook. They maintain a cordial and cheerful attitude that adults (well, at least American adults) tend to bury under a pile of stress and obligation.

I markedly pointed out a difference between adults and American adults because I don’t think that the same attitude I’m used to encountering every day applies all around the world. I think the American way of life is fast-paced and all-consumed on making things bigger, better, and faster. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, I think it’s just different. I only noticed this difference on my first trip abroad, too. I spent three weeks in Nicaragua and I think I learned more about myself and the American way of life during those three weeks than I did in the twenty years prior.

I’d also be crazy if I said the American way of life isn’t absorbed by our children. I mean, that’s our lifeblood, right? We train them to be the way we already are. And they’re only too willing to be just like us when they grow up. That much I do think applies all around the world. Of course there’s the dead and beaten debate between nature and nurture but anyone who’s taken a psychology course can agree that both have to play a part in the way children develop. Children are like sponges and they’ll soak up at least a little bit of everything they’re exposed to.

Observing that difference firsthand and thinking more about it now makes me curious about the children in the rest of the world. How, then, are the rest of the children developing? What are they exposed to? Surely it’s different in comparison to the American children. Surely it’s different in comparison to the Nicaraguan children. But how are they different?

I’m not going to lie, attempting to research the children in Cuba online proved to be a bit of a challenge. Maybe I’m just no good at Google-fying my search criteria but everything I tried looking up only really directed me toward travel websites geared toward children which provided me with really awesome coloring sheets and oversimplified history lessons in elementary terms but those weren’t much help in understanding the Cuban children any more than watching an episode of Dora the Explorer would be. The Moon Handbooks had a bit more information too, but only just.

What I did find, though, was that the Cuban government really attempts to provide basic necessities equally across all of its citizens, including and especially targeting the children. This ranges from healthcare to education. Even with equal education and healthcare benefits, though, there’s really no standard for most Cuban children as far as status goes, much like here in the United States. The children are given special attention and the Cuban people are devoted to raising their children well, but there’s only so much parents can do and much of that relies on the financial and housing situations of each family individually.

A prime example of the inequality manifesting from lack of resources is in the educational system. Education is supposed to be equal across all of the children in Cuba but there is a significant impact on the education the children receive resulting from their location mostly. The educational system is designed to benefit children living in urban areas much more so than the children living in rural areas. One reason for this could be that the youth in boarding schools on the countryside spend equal amounts of time between study and labor. Moon Havana quotes José Martí as saying, “In the morning, the pen – but in the afternoon, the plow.” That’s the way of schooling for rural children, but the same cannot be said for the urban youth, so while education is in attempt of being equal across all students, the children in the cities definitely receive the better end of the deal.

One standard across all children that I did find interesting compared to the Americans is that the government in Cuba, through their educational system, “teaches youngsters magnificent values” as it is stated in the Moon Havana Handbook. The children are exceedingly well-behaved so you’ll “almost never hear a child crying in Cuba, nor even a parent scolding their children.” Imagine that here! I don’t know the last time I’ve gone to the grocery store or a restaurant or any other public place, really, and not heard a child screaming or crying or being punished in harsh whispers.

I think my main goal for this trip and studying the children is just going to be to observe and note the differences between the children in Cuba and the children in America. My previous traveling points to evidence that children in third-world countries (okay, I’m generalizing a little bit) are more obviously happy and willing to share than the children in America. I’m curious as to see whether or not that holds true for the Cuban children as well.

Resources: Moon Handbook: Cuba, Moon Handbook: Havana, http://www.tulane.edu/~rouxbee/kids98/cuba.html

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