Touching Mexico from Here

The ideas of the Apostle, earnestly defended by the Marti Program Office, have motivated the literacy of Mexican workers in the state of Tamaulipas

By: Susana Gomes Bugallo


2015-09-03 | 17:18:30 EST
The ideas of the Apostle, earnestly defended by the Marti Program Office, have motivated the literacy of Mexican workers in the state of Tamaulipas.The ideas of the Apostle, earnestly defended by the Marti Program Office, have motivated the literacy of Mexican workers in the state of Tamaulipas. Photo: Lisbeth Ricardo PupoZoom
In Reynosa, a town in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas near the US border with Texas they are learning to read, with the ideas of José Martí, knowledge about Cuba and its Revolution grows, and they admire the pedagogical and humanist conceptions of intellectual Armando Hart Davalos, director of the Marti Program Office.

"I wanted to be someone else," says Rolando Ortiz, one of the literate workers of the Autonomous Industrial Union of Maquiladoras of Reynosa* (SIAMAR). In his eyes he has more appreciation than can be described. He explains in detail how much he has learned from Cuba and how his life has changed since he can read and write with confidence.

Like him, many of those who belong to SIAMAR have changed the course of their lives. Juventud Rebelde was able to know about these stories from journalists and filmmakers who visited this land with workers from the Chronicles sociocultural project of the Office of the Marti Program. With the stories they found there, they are now preparing a documentary.

In addition to the impressive testimonies, it was a surprise to find that a library has been built in the area and the population decided to name it Armando Hart Dávalos.

And although the Cuban tradition is not to name institutions after personalities who are among us, in these Mexican lands bordering with the United States by the Rio Grande, this is just their way to show gratitude and admiration for the island. According to lawyer Alberto Lara Bazaldúa, deputy secretary general of SIAMAR, this popular decision corresponds to the fact that they were literate with Marti's ideas, so well-defended by the Cuban revolutionary intellectual.

What does being literate with these ideas mean? I asked Eloísa Carreras Varona, director of the Chronicles project and leading scholar and passionate about the ideas of the first Minister of Education in the triumphant Cuba, just as Fidel convened the Literacy Campaign.

"You live in virtue," she told me. "You live happily nonetheless. It is to understand why we are here and what we can do better for others. It is to understand why we must fight for the new man and woman, why we are called to transform our reality to improve ourselves every day."

"For Hart, the most important part of that idea of our becoming literate, it is the search to understand how we can be happy. And for him, this is not possible without education and culture, for where these do not appear, the path to barbarism is built," says Eloísa, also his partner in life.

Books instead of weapons

The tutor, Paz Beatriz Santiago, explained that "before, those who had no studies could be fired from the maquiladoras" and said that after finishing the primary and secondary level, they now have permanent jobs in their import and export business.

And the best part is that no one plans to stay that way. Many have already started school (pre-university) and have acquired a higher level at work, as they were general labourers before and now they serve as group leaders. That's one of the reasons that drive tutor Reynosa to claim that literacy can change and influence the future of their children.

Rolando Ortiz works in a unit of the SIAMAR Company and confesses that he had spent years trying to finish his education, until he came to the literacy program. "At first I was scared because I had always tried to hide that I could not read or write. I only knew some letters and had no documents to hire me for, because the requirement is to have at least basic studies.

"I decided to join this program because my other companions were targeted. I steeled myself and said I was going to do it. I finished my primary and secondary education and they gave me my certificates. This changed my life, before I could speak but not write my ideas. Now I'm more sure of what I say because I understand the words. I want to go further and do the amazing things I know. In my life I have been in other companies and they never bothered if we had any educational needs," he says gratefully.

Rosa Nely Diaz Padilla, another literate, recounts her story and explains that now she is able to surf the social networks, where before she could not even use a phone. "My children asked me and I did not know what to say. Now I talk to them and I'm reading books to share them," she says.

She also argues that the people of Reynosa lack much instruction. "If instead of weapons, we had books, that would be wonderful. Children do not read but fire bullets, because that is what you see everywhere.

If elsewhere they did the same as in the SIAMAR there would not be so much violence. The union is also active for those youngsters with limited physical abilities and is already achieving much in the nearest towns like Rio Bravo and Ciudad Victoria," she said.

Although the library has not been opened yet, they have already completed several literacy programs and developed initiatives such as the Children's Culture Week, in which more than 400 infants took part.

Discovering Cuba

That in such a critical place as this in Mexico they think on the philosophy of Martí and that of Cuba is an impressive fact, many scholars agree. A nexus that Jorge Cuellar Montoya, president of the José Martí Latin American University, in Tamaulipas, has undertaken to strengthen its promotion of Marti's thought.

At the age of 14 he first heard about José Martí and remained attached to him. After reading his texts and knowing his relationship with Mexico and unparalleled friendship he had with Manuel Mercado, Cuellar began to be more interested in Cuba. Music, literature and painting served as motivation and he has visited the country many times.

Then he came to the University of Havana and encouraged his link with the Cuban educational authorities. That was a dream that came true that brought him even closer to the archipelago. After completing his doctoral studies at the University of Havana, he founded a university based on the educational philosophy of the Apostle. Although then he admired Armando Hart, he never imagined that he could meet him. Then he heard about the visit of the revolutionary intellectual to that state and promised himself to be responsible for his stay. So the links between the teachers took hold. In 2013 the University which he heads awarded the Cuban fighter the Honoris Causa degree in Educational Sciences.

Everyone has their story to tell. Alberto Lara Bazaldúa, deputy secretary general of SIAMAR and director of the Armando Hart Library in Reynosa, said his love for Cuba comes from a grandfather who spoke of the island. The Tamaulipas union activists believe that education and culture are basic elements to counter organized crime, prevent violence and the degradation of society. So they also train the sons and daughters of the more than 50,000 members.

In addition to changing the lives of those working in the SIAMAR they now help the more than 300 children they support with tablets, grants and other assistance like the chess lessons they teach. They know that the other unions will imitate them when they see results.

The secretary general of the Independent Union of Industrial Maquiladoras in Reynosa, Miguel Tirso Lucas, described the facilities they have for the younger workers, the library service, internet and printing their homework.

What does it mean to Armando Hart and to those working in the Chronicles project that humanistic ideas of the Apostle have improved the lifestyle of a Mexican town so much? Eloise responds that this is a pleasant surprise that Cuba has come so far with its message of love, culture and education, despite the lies disseminated by much of the world press. "The people know where the truth lies," she adds.

"That seed is planted in many places and has come to this site which communicates with the United States by the Rio Grande," she explains.

"Anyone who has studied well the transformation that occurred in Cuban education after the triumph of the Revolution, has to understand that these transformations also originated what Cuba is today, and make it continue to defend socialism as an idea of human betterment, the utility of virtue and that culture is the only way to be free " said Eloísa.

* A company that manufactures its products with materials brought in from the United States and then exports them back to that nation. They receive very low wages and the working conditions are unfavourable.

Translated by ESTI

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