It’s been two weeks since our trip to Cuba and I’m still pondering the experience. What we saw was an amazing study in contrast. 60 years post revolution, Cuba now exists in third world poverty, yet the Cuban people continue to exude a dignity, intelligence and tenacity for rising above and excelling in their circumstances in ways that command the world’s attention. I’ve wanted to understand more.
Imagine having regular power outages, unsafe drinking water, food and supply shortages with only a few things to choose from, along with deteriorating buildings and a controlling bureaucracy that makes improvements to your government issued home almost impossible. This is their dally reality due to the US embargo, loss of support from the collapsed USSR and excessive control by the government.
Despite this, Cuba commands international respect for its universal, free high-quality education system, free world class medical schools and treatment, and focused priorities on medical research and support for all the performing and visual arts. This very small country with a population of 11.3 million has been a world player for 60 years.
How can this be? It defies our western logic. In addition, there is a strength, pride, resilience and confidence in its people. We don’t usually see this type of personal power in our country among those with so little. What’s this from?
While I’m no expert on this subject, if I look at my experience in Cuba through the lenses of my work creating personal transformation and social justice reform, I see that the impact of the revolution may have instilled a very different personal and world view, not unlike ones I seek to instill in people. While Cuba is rife with complex political and fiscal problems, the people exhibit signs of tremendous resiliency, strength and creative vision.
Allow me to explore a few concepts, that I use in my work, which may underpin some the changes Cubans’ experienced from the revolution. It’s possible this has instilled a sense of greatness in the minds and hearts of Cuban people, even now as they live in poverty.
AN IDEA CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING
When the Castro brothers and his commanders, Che Cuevara and others, began setting up the national constitution, it was being driven by socialist concepts underpinning the revolution: that power must be spread to the people, not held by the wealthy with controlling business interests. Moving from Batista’s dictatorship where power was held by corrupt government officials and wealthy US land and business owners to give control to the people meant the entire infrastructure of Cuba had to change.
In the article, Cuba: Before and After the Revolution (See Resources), there’s a dizzying list of statistics and accomplishments that Castro implemented. When he took power In 1959, 75% of people lived in palm leaf huts, 45% of the country was illiterate, 85% had no running water, 91% had no electricity, there was only 1 doctor per 2,000 and racial discrimination and police brutality were widespread. All that had to change.
The Cuban people were given the power to identify and make stunning advancements. They wanted universal education from primary to college and they achieved it. The rate of illiteracy went to ZERO in ten years. They wanted universal health care and they have it. 9.1% of it’s GDP went to health care to the point that in the 1990’s, 5.3 doctors per 1,000 people made it the highest in the world. Their infant mortality rate is incredibly low at 6 in 1,000. Their medical services are sent to countries in need all over the world. (The US rejected their offers for aid in 911 and Katrina). They wanted support for the arts and they have it in ways we can only envy.
Regardless of our views on the politics in Cuba, their concept of empowering people to be advocates of their needs has been a huge success.
Give people the idea and power to define their priorities and watch as they step up with clarity and impact.
FOCUS ON THE GREATER GOOD
Our interpreter in Cuba, Alberto Gonzalez-Rivero, has lived through the changes of the revolution. In his book, Born to Interpret Cuba (See Resources) he chronicles his difficult childhood in the rural part of the country and the impact of the revolution. It was education that made the most striking difference for him. He realized he could create a life beyond what he experienced in his peasant upbringing. He also completely embraced the concepts of the revolution, that you do things for the greater good of all.
He embodies the mind set of being guided by higher values and a sense of purpose. He knows he was born to be in the role of interpreting Cuba to other’s seeking to understand. He takes it seriously, he studies, he knows the jargon and concepts of every professional topic we heard lectures on – from history, medicine, music, fine arts, organic agriculture, tobacco, and race relations. He is respected by everyone, including us.
When you have a sense of your importance to the greater good, it raises you up to be your best.
ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY AND A PERSONAL VISION
In what may seem like a contradiction, the Cuban government has financially supported and encouraged personal creative expression in all forms of the arts, while also being strict about criticism of the government. Artist expression of dissonance is ok, out and out verbal dissension is not.
The result is that the arts have flourished. Their Art Museum is world class, they have been on the cutting edge of every trend in modern art. Artistic talent in music, performing arts and visual arts are identified at an early age and supported with individual lessons throughout school up through specialized college education. Art education centers, representing an artist’s personal vision, are scattered in Havana like incubators of artistic express. It’s unlike anything we have in the US as artists are supported by the government to engage in lifting up people’s creative instincts. The scope of artistic talent in every form was amazing,
More important was the sense of pride and joy that was evident in the people involved in their artistic work. By being supported to explore and create, their life force is affirmed and strengthened, not thwarted.
Give people license to express themselves and their vision through creative outlets and they excel.
The concepts that have made Cuba great: give power to the people, represent the greater good of all and provide support for personal development and creative expression, have created an empowering mind set in its people that fuels their achievements. These concepts are fundamental to all personal liberation. Their confidence, pride and strong sense of what’s right, consistently choosing social justice over profit, makes me hope they’ll find creative solutions to their staggering political and financial problems.
Small Cuba has stood up against the relentless forces of big capitalism in remarkable ways, yet it’s on the cusp of change. As the leaders and pro-revolutionaries age, the youth, who have no memory of the stunning innovation that’s occurred, look to the US as the Mecca. How Cuba maintains its vision of greatness will be its greatest test to date.
Does this review of Cuba make you aware of your need to be pulled by a strong idea that gives you a sense of purpose, serving a greater good? My Transformational Life Coaching is designed to help illuminate your ideas, creating a path to their reality. For more information see my website www.spectrumtransformation.com and use my free consultation button to reach me.
Cuba: Before and After the Revolution, edited by Mika, Dec 15, 2008 https://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×4653650
Gonzalez-Rivero, Alberto, Born To Translate Cuba: A Country Boy’s Dream Come True, May 19, 2014, Pfeifer- Hamilton Publishers, available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Born-Translate-Cuba-Country-Dream/dp/1935388118/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr
Cuba: 57 Years After The Revolution[cm1] , by Joan Moran, March 25, 2016 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-moran/cuba-57-years-after-the-r_b_9542324.html
Fidel Knew the ‘Cuban Model’ Couldn’t Last Forever, Jeffrey Goldberg, Nov 26, 2016 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/11/fidel-castro-obituary/508805/
The Cuban Revolution by Christopher Minster, February 25, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/the-cuban-revolution-2136372
The Cuban Revolution: Challenges and Changes, by Dave Holmes, Oct. 22, 2010 http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-cuban-revolution-challenges-and-changes/21566
Cuban billboard photo –– “ The Word Teaches, The Example Guides” Che Guevara