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Posted November 16, 2009 by publisher in Cuban Culture

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Scanned from the book Album Azul de Cuba, compiled and edited in exile by Aurelio Garcia Dulzaides in Miami Florida in 1965.

Since the foundation in Cuba of the independent republic to its fall into communist hands, the country obviously progressed as statistics and history indicate. In other words, from May 20th 1902 to December 31st 1958 the growth took place with notable speed and efficiency. It is surprising how the Cuban people evolved spiritually and materially in less than fifty years of independence and self-government. On the other hand, after January 1st 1959 its relapse has been both quick and destructive turning a prosperous land into a negative aerie and a cultured civilized people into a backward conglomerate lacking in the primordial needs of modern conquests in industry, science and education as well as those wide trade horizons which previously had been one of the main channels for the people’s growing economic wealth.

An independent republic may have its difficulties, its mistakes; that is something none can deny and is not exclusive to Cuban history, as all countries and all latitudes have experienced their ups and downs; but it may be stated quite categorically that since its inception under the presidency of that exemplary President Don Tomas Estrada Palma, a true reflection of government honesty whose motto was “More teachers, less soldiers”, Cuban legislation and its executive mission was channeled to-wards a goal: to achieve that high level of progress which the country of Jose Marti was capable of producing, a nation advancing in everything worth while. that goal was reached. The social, economic and cultural position attained by Cuba before it was bet and treacherously sold to Russia by tyrant Fidel (personal pervert, astounding mixture of evil and ignorance, cynicism and cowardice, murder and rapacity was a nation on a very high level, deserving the admiration and envy of those who know how to exploit good, how to plunder everything which represents tune, prosperity and gain. Thus sugar, the tourist and even the tobacco industry are chapters erased Cuba’s development and now increase the possibility of other countries whose governments have profited from destruction wrought by Castroism, particularly Mexico. whose rulers, ignoring the traditions of their own country once so closely allied to those of Cuba, are now indifferent to the wounds and want inflicted on Cuban people, their just rights and their human dignity their sorrow as they struggle bravely. But Mexico will not be forgiven!

Culture and Learning

During the years of republican freedom Cuba achieved for all her children the widest elementary education which, together with purely cultural values reached all the population. What during colonial days was closed off for the exclusive enjoyment of Spanish wealth, with the Republic became a democratic gain available to all. Grammar school, high school, university education, technical and industrial abilities, arts and crafts including strictly academy studies were provided for everyone who wished to improve their status in life. And they did. Scholarships and free registration opened all doors of learning, with no distinction of race or creed.

White and colored people mingled in schoolrooms from grammar schools to university studies; Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Freethinkers alike. No prejudices existed and very few countries of the world enjoyed such freedom. If white people stimulated by a spirit of free enterprise and free association organized some private societies of their own, colored people did likewise. In official, public initiatives all worked together with no problems whatsoever. White people were proud of such a private institution as the Havana Yacht Club just as colored people were equally proud of the Club Atenas and others. There was no urge for discrimination but the natural trend by which in racial, as well as other spheres like draws like.

When the Republic was inaugurated in 1902 the number of school-rooms left by the first American intervention was 3,595 with a total of 172,000 registered school children in attendance. This was a notable improvement over the 312 schoolrooms left behind by Spanish rule along with a census which in 1899 revealed a total of 1,021,545 illiterates. The official census taken in 1943 revealed only 789,301 unable to read and write, a figure which naturally included many inherited from the time of Spain. Cuba by 1953 (only census we feel able to trust) i.e. ten years later, the total of literacy had put Cuba fourth in Latin America following the Argentine, Costa Rica and Chile. The total able to read and write was 2,888,327 or 77.9% of the population and illiterates 22.1%. Statistics gathered by the Pan-American Union in 1960 also confirm the above.

To the push given public education by the republican and democratic government one must add private education whose development was fully backed by wise and gainful legislation. Excellent private grammar, high schools and universities flourished. When democracy came to an end in Cuba in 1959 there were at the time 21 Secondary high schools, 19 normal schools, 14 domestic science schools, 19 business schools, 7 plastic art schools, 28 technical industrial schools and several schools devoted to journalism, publicity, etc. Besides the University of Havana, autonomous national institution over 300 years old, there were other official and private university centers in different parts of the island. The University of Havana had nearly 25,000 registered students, an attendance only approached in our Latin American countries by the Argentine and Uruguay. And to all this must be added such traditional institutions as Academy of History, National Academy of Arts and Belles Lettres, the Academy of Science (nearly a century old), Cuban Academy of the Language, correspondent of the Royal Spanish Academy of the Language, National Institute of Prescience and Social Reforms, National Board of Archeology, Pan-American Colombian Society, Center of Higher Education, Folklore Society, etc.

The Cuban National Library and the National Archive were established immediate after the establishment of the Republic when the Palace of Fine Arts was also organized. Public libraries and museums were well received and the National Organization of Public Libraries whose installation was due to an agreement at the Tenth Inter-American Conference held at Cara Venezuela, spread adequate reading centers and d people from all walks of life. In official, national well as municipal and private institutions centers culture multiplied, contributing keener interest in arts, sciences, social developments and national achievements. The Cuban National Direction of Culture was a department of the Ministry of Education, excellent media for starting cultural activities, art exhibitions, concerts, publications and motion pictures which reached far and wide. The Havana Annual Book Fair became a yearly event of great interest which gathered exhibitions from many countries.

After the first American intervention school teaching took an enormous stride forward thanks to the great work of Enrique Jose Varona who stirred up school and university education. Varona was an able guide and rendered his country a great service. Later new trends were tried and after the 1930 Revolution there is no doubt learning and culture looked to even wider horizons. Rural education won new and very detailed attention, reaching out to the remotest corners through one of its new developments, “civico rural” schools when education had not fully reached before. In the 1940 Constitution the National Council of Education and Culture was formed and those outstanding corporations of the country were represented whose aim was to s up interest throughout the island in the teaching and the cultural growth of he Cuban people.

Cuba had scaled a very high level, well known abroad and where many of its most famous men were recognized and honored. Their names remain outstanding to this day, including such men as Don Carlos de la Torre, famous zoologist; Dr. Carlos J. Finlay, in the field of tropical medicine; Antonio Sanchez de Bustamante in international law who once presided at the International Court of Justice, The Hague; Ricardo Dolz an eminent jurist in prosecution rights, and many other guides, still for reference wherever their subjects are being discussed. At international gatherings Cuba was heard and respected. Let it suffice to record the number of Cuban proposals approved at the Tenth Inter-American Conference held at Caracas in 1954, when progressive. Cuba was chosen with four other countries to constitute the Cultural Committee set up in Mexico to work for higher education throughout the Continent.

In science, literature and arts Cubans were ranking with those countries contributing to the development of the mind. In medicine and public hygiene Cuba had achieved international respect at all the meetings where her national work won applause and imitation.

—————————————- Havana Journal Comments—————————————-

To learn more about business in Cuba and the Cuban economy before 1959, read our Pre-Castro Cuba Business article at our sister site Havana.biz.

To learn more about the legal system in Cuba before 1959 and the Cuban Constitution, read our Pre-Castro Legal System article at our CubaLegalServices.com site.

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