Here’s another installment of my interview with Tania Vazquez Paldi about her life in Cuba. Tania moved from Havana, Cuba to Portland, Oregon about two years ago. For a short bio of Tania and the first part of our conversation, click here.
Kyna: Was there any public education before the Revolution?
Tania: There was, primary education and high school, but after that it was a matter of how wealthy you were. And precisely my grandmother on my father’s side, she’s from Guantanamo, a very remote area, that province, which is a very poor area. My grandmother from my mother’s side, she had a better living because her father had a farm with cattle and they ate very well. She’s also from the countryside in Guantanamo but she could get a better education. She became a tailor and she bought a house downtown, in the city of Guantanamo. She had a better living than my other grandmother.
Kyna: She had these things before she married?
Tania: Yes. Then she had four daughters, which are my mom and my aunties, and she could afford, before the Revolution, to buy clothing for her daughters and to feed them properly and to educate them. My mom, before the Revolution, was studying medicine in college.
Kyna: To be a doctor?
Kyna: And she left when she got pregnant?
Tania: Yes, she got overwhelmed and then my sister came. She had only the help of my grandmother, and she was working too. She couldn’t afford more help, so she had to stop studying. But when the Revolution first came, she was studying but she stopped to go to the countryside to teach the farmers. She told me very interesting stories. She even had to sleep in a stable sometimes, with the animals because they were so poor, the family she was teaching, that they didn’t have a place for her.
Kyna: She would go and stay with a particular family?
Kyna: She would stay there for a few months?
Kyna: A family would get their own private tutor, basically?
Tania: Yes. The Literacy Campaign was so important. There was so much illiteracy that any student who could read or write could join the campaign and go and help.
Kyna: Was it voluntary?
Tania: It was voluntary.
Kyna: Were they paid?
Tania: No, it was voluntary, they were not paid. During the heat of the Revolution, you know, everyone wanted to help because they wanted this to succeed and there was no money. Everything was from scratch. They changed the currency. Many people lost a lot of money because they had money in the bank and they could only take out a certain amount and the rest was frozen. Then the embargo against Cuba started. So, Cuba had to start from nothing. Everything was voluntary, at the beginning.
Tune in next time for more of our conversation.
The winner of this week’s drawing is Linda of South Suburban Travel Professionals in the greater Chicago area. Congratulations Linda!