By Leonor Hurtado
Without the revolution it would have been impossible
To get a better understanding of this paradox, I spoke with my friend Sylvia, a Cuban professor of biochemistry who was 11 years old when the Revolution triumphed.
“The triumph of the Revolution filled us with great hopes that turned out into reality, the realization of our deepest hopes,” she said, “The first objective of the Revolution was health, education and justice for all of the Cuban people. We worked arduously and we achieved it. Our basic needs were satisfied, not to great excess but yes, with equity.
“I, as an orphan from birth, abandoned by my father and orphaned again by the death of my grandmother, was adopted by the Revolution. I had what was necessary to live, to educate myself and to become the woman, scientist and revolutionary. Without the Revolution this would have been impossible. But the youth of today did not know exploitation or oppression. They were born with their basic needs fulfilled, they take it for granted and they believe that it has always been this way.
“Reflecting with my compañeros, we realize that the Revolution failed. The Revolution did not present new challenges to the young, new aspirations, new reasons to struggle. Therefore, many young people have started to feel comfortable coopted, have been captivated by the consumerism and technology that exist outside of the island. Many young people now long for what is prohibited: to head for the United States. The rural life working the land is very hard, there are many limitations and few attractions, and the young have no reasons to struggle, nor do they have the dream of forging themselves into heroes.”
I can see that the Revolution has taken care of the present for the young people, but it does not offer attractive alternatives for the future. The migration from the countryside to the cities is happening throughout the world, for various reasons; it is and has been that way since the industrial revolution. It is happening rapidly in Cuba but the migration is more complicated because it is not in response to the lack of land nor the lack of a market for agricultural production. The Revolution still prioritizes agricultural workers and peasants. An agrarian program was carried out with health, education and organization, satisfying the basic needs of the rural population—something that cannot be compared with the miserable conditions of the rural communities in most Latin American countries. But these favorable conditions have not been able to keep the majority of the young people in the countryside, nor draw them back there. In Cuba the migration of young people and the abandonment of the land is a serious problem that threatens the national economy.
I can see that the Revolution has taken care of the present for the young people, but it does not offer attractive alternatives for the future.
During our visit we met with Juan Jose Leon Vega, Director of International Affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture. Juan Jose pointed out that the Ministry promotes livestock production: it provides the land, offers technical and organizational support and consumable goods and guarantees a market for what is produced. This answer shows that basic elements of production have been solved: the land and the market. But what happens with the labor force? How will Cuba confront this problem?
We can see that there is only one country in the world in which access to farm land is guaranteed – that country is Cuba. In the United States many young people want to get back to the countryside and work the land, but they can’t because the land is too expensive and because they have large student debts and high health care costs. In Latin America and other parts of the Third World people are returning to the countryside because they can’t find work in the cities. But they find no support there to be productive. Then, land grabs are violently evicting people from rural areas as well. It is ironic that Cubans have education, health care, free land and a guaranteed market, yet there are few young women and men that are willing to take the risk of building their future in the countryside, and to overcome the difficulties this implies. Change is coming fast – how will the young Cuban women and men defend their land?