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La Cuba del Espiritu Cubano
Educational Program

Niquero

I would characterize today as simple and sweet -- it touched my heart.

Our first destination stop was La Demajagua, the plantation Manuel Cespedes owned when he freed his slaves in 1868.  For a century the site has been forgotten and trees grew up through the machinery that once was part of theclick to enlarge sugar factory.  Now there is a small on-site museum with personal memorabilia, a subtle monument and the trees/machinery entanglement, but it is largely open space.  Even so it is possible to sense the bravery, boldness, jubilation and the trauma that is part of the history of the site.

Not infrequently, off in the distance in rural areas there are distinctively non-rural, large, long, three and four story, boxy cement buildings, with rows of windows on each floor.  We were told that this makes up the dormitories and class rooms of boarding high school.  The explanation for why they are set were they are is so that the students can study better because they don't get distracted by urban amusements and so that they can help with farming a couple half-days each week.  click to enlargeEvidently a good proportion of Cuban high school students are educated in schools like these.  Most of the students come from urban areas, not the surrounding rural land.  Those who can, try to go home on the weekends, but transport is a challenge -- that is the story across Cuba.

The town of Media Luna was the childhood home of Celia Sanchez, another national hero.  She grew up there in a modest house that is now a museum.  One room of the  building was her fathers "home-office".  He was a physician.  A lot of the displays of artifacts and personal memorabilia, alone, are rather ordinary -- Cuba seems to have a lot of museums which consist mostly of display cases of personal memorabilia..  In one sense it is stuff from the dresser and desk draws of dead people, but collectively they paint the picture of how Celia became a hero of the revolution. You have to be in awe of her convictions and courage to act upon them.  And talking to the staff adds to the experience.  It is easy to see why so many people love Celia!

As with the other museums, the people who worked at Casa de Sanchez were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and personable, though never jingoistic.  Is this why the U.S. government feels so threatened by its citizens meeting the Cuban people?

At the western end of the Sierra Maestra range (it is just hills here) is Playa Las Coloradas  It is in this remote area that Fidel and Che made their beachhead, or shipwreck, in 1956, to start the revolution.  It is a generally unremarkable for a place from where so much history has unfolded -- and there are no grand monuments.  Perhaps this is intentional and in keeping with the actual disposition of the event -- the first few weeks of the revolution weren't a sterling success!

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