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Visions of Cuba


Dr. Sadye L. M. Logan Joins the CSWE Research Delegation to Cuba June 2-10, 2012


In June 2012, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) sponsored a delegation of social work faculty from several universities in the United States for an educational tour of Cuba.

CSWE is a non-profit, national organization that represents more than 2,500 individual members as well a graduate and undergraduate social work education programs .

This program afforded the following opportunities: 1. A comprehensive view of the development and present state of Cuban work education and practice.

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2. Information about social work education and practice in Cuba. 3. An opportunity to establish contacts for possible future collaboration with the Cuban social work community


Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is an island country in the Caribbean.

The nation of Cuba consists of the Main Island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos.


CAPITOL: Havana POPULATION: 11,253,665 (2011, World Bank) GDP: US$60.81 billion (2008, World Bank) NATIONAL ANTHEM: La Bayamesa GOVERNMENT: Unitary State, Socialist State OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Spanish NATIONAL FLOWER: Marpasa


Cuba’s Transport...


Cuba and her people The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.� – Samuel Johnson

Senior citizens comprise the largest percentage of the population (high social security cost, etc.)


20 percent of Cuba’s families and children are living below the poverty level. Afro-Cubans comprise approximately 62% of island population. ‌ 80 percent incarcerated Stagnation in population growth due to persistently low birth rate.


Maternal & child health: Early diagnosis, research, assessment, and ongoing monitoring are key elements of Cuban programs. A key player in the country’s successful approach to maternal health and early childhood development is multidisciplinary Polyclinics.�

Cuba provides three non-compulsory preschool education programs. Today compulsory education through ninth grade exists. The effects of the Special Period and Tourism are having some negative effect on continuing education beyond the ninth grade.


Cuban social scene... Recreation and work


Nature and the environment Las Terraza is located 40 miles west of Havana in the Pinor del Rio in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. This is a project of sustainable rural economy developed for tourism based on the rational uses of natural resources. Its environmental center and botanical garden specializes in nearly extinct indigenous plants.


Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries Jimmy Carter


If we could see the beauty of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.

Buddha


Old Havana Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. By the 17th century, it had become one of the Caribbean’s main centers for ship-building. Although it is today a sprawling metropolis of 2 million inhabitants, it’s old center retains an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogenous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards.


Art and culture Cuban Culture is a colorful, interesting mix. Further, as reflected in these images, a strong artistic presence exist among the Cuban people.


The Jose Marti Memorial At Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba


National Museum of Beautiful Arts


This political artist subject is the politics of the environment. He is world renown and lives in sustainable rural community of Las Terrazas, The tree is cen-

tral in his work as an artist.


The founder and director of La Colmenita, or “The Little Beehive,” is quick to note that the kids “don’t want to be actors. They want to play at acting.” The goal of the internationally acclaimed children’s theater troupe is to use dance, music and acting as a way to develop each child’s creativity so they can achieve their greatest potential, individually and as a group. Their success has inspired “beehives” all over the world. They engaged the delegation in performance as part of their welcome.


Music and dancing

Rumba is synonymous with Cuba...It is described as the heartbeat of Cuban Music! It was brought to Cuba by African slaves, was usually restricted and suppressed , considered dangerous and lewd.


Programs and services Socialist model in crisis… Challenges and achievement in Cuba’s social, economic, and political spheres: 

A sharp decline in the standards of living

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Lower social participation, especially among young people

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Trend toward social differentiation

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Scarcity of food, insufficient transportation and housing

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Problems in everyday life, e.g., blackouts


Research Center for Psychological and Sociological Research— Cuba (Centro de Investigaciones Psicologicas Y Sociologicas) The Center is an interdisciplinary research institution at the national and international levels studies on social structures, and inequality, religion, labor issues; and the and social participation.


Latin American School of Social Science (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Programa cuba The focus of FLACSO’s is on research that is done on contemporary issues confronting Cuba...


A middle school located in the Las Terrazas community.


Universidad de La Havana The delegation met with the Sociology and Social Work alumni and faculty to discuss the history and development. of social work practice and education. Social work appears to exist and is evolving in a health based context.


Casa de la Cultural de Playa Municipal. This program administers a program called Senior Adult University where adults learn the various aspects of the psychosocial aspects of aging. The participants are given a diploma at the end of the program and some of the graduates from the group start teaching other older adults.


Miscellaneous images Hotel Nacional de Cuba , and Cuba after dark...


Members of the delegation support team


Me having fun‌


Reflection and evaluation Reflections: Social Work Research Program Delegation to Cuba I have had an ongoing interest and curiosity about Cuba since watching via television coverage, Fidel Castro fighting in a guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the late 1950s against the country’s dictator, Fulgencio Batistia. I was totally inspired by the notion that an old capitalist, sexist, racist society could be transformed into a nation of new women and men progressing together not because of the color of their skin or pedigree, but according to their individual need and ability. Since then the motivation and desire to visit Cuba was as intense and as intoxicating as the fragrance of her national flower, the mariposa. Clink here to see evaluation!


Cuban Study Tour Evaluation

It was the intention of our program, titled Social Work in Cuba: What the Social Work Profession in Cuba and the United States Can Learn From One Another, to provide: 1.

A comprehensive view of the development and present state of Cuban social work education and practice.

2. Information about social work education and practice in Cuba. 3. An opportunity to establish contacts for possible future collaboration with the Cuban social work community.

These goals were to be accomplished through meetings held with social work faculty from the University of Havana and social workers in diverse agencies, organizations, and the Cuban Society of Social Workers in Health Care. Participants also will visit research centers, community development programs, and health care centers. Like many of my generation who watched via television Cuba’s struggle for independence from a dictatorship and who became politically active in the 1960s, this opportunity to participate in an educational tour to Cuba was totally inspirational. Further, my curiosity about Cuba was refueled by a 2010 PBS Nature Special on Cuba titled: Cuba: The Accidental Eden. Cuba was


described as a wild refuge unrivaled in the Caribbean. This video described Cuba’s ecosystem as a crown jewel in the Caribbean. Over the years, I have incorporated an international perspective in my teaching, research and service opportunities. I saw this trip to Cuba as an opportunity to enhance my global teaching and research perspectives. I was especially interested exploring opportunities for community based partnership building, family and children well-being, women issues and racially based equity issues. Since returning to the state I have continued to explore these issues through readings and reflections. The community based center in the La Lisa municipality in Cuba was an excellent case example of community engaged practice. The center was organized in 2003 as an outgrowth of a concepts from the work of Paulo Freire ( 1921-1997) such as “Transformation of the World”, “Empowerment”, and “Liberatory Education”. Freire , a Brizilian educator, argued for a system of education that emphasizes learning as an act of culture and freedom. The group from the La Lisa community spoke of empowerment specifically in terms of Black women as one of their goals. They also spoke indirectly about racism and racialized responses to members of their community based on skin pigmentation and the texture of one’s hair. The center ‘s mission is to comprehensively transform the community in physical, social, economic, cultural and environmental ways with the participation of the population, organizations and institutions, and by taking advantage of the potentialities of the neighborhood and the help of the municipal, provincial and national governments. Interestingly, the community center was staffed by only two profesionals employed by the state: a director and a social worker. The two paid staff are supported by a cadre of diverse, passionate and committed people from the community who are described as consultants. These consultants serve the missión of the center as volunteers.


The center is dedicated to training, providing advice, and support for the development of degree programs, projects, meetings and workshops. Emphasis are placed on problems experienced by the people in the community in order to empower, integrate and achieve the participation of local actors in social transformation. Current community based projects include prevention of domestic violence, the apron projects, planning and developing a beauty parlor to support employment opportunities, the sewing and knitting club and HIV testing and education. I have made contact with members of the volunteer teams as well as the director. My intent is to continue to support the sewing project which is connected to the domestic violence project. Despite being left with the troubling question of whether finding ways around the US embargo of Cuba to ease travel to the island as well as the increase of remittance flows (which supposedly only benefits certain segments of the population) will accelerate or retard the transition to a freer and socially equal Cuba, and my worry about the perception of and how the Cuban government’s definition of problems will impact the education, training and the role of future social workers, I would recommend the Cuba trip to other social work faculty. It is for the reason that I wonder about the future role of social worker on the island that I believe that our presence should be felt though visits , partnerships and possible exchanges. Perhaps the presence of social work visitors will serve as a catalyst for both governments in dealing more humanely with each other as well as with the people who get caught in the middle, impoverished and downtrodden. My only suggestions would be to provide more specific, timely information about travel within state. I believe that the information packet submitted by this first group might be tailored as informational materials for future groups. It would also be useful to specifically designate someone s the “tour director�, not simply as someone participating in the tour. I think Dr. Strug was more than just someone participating in the tour. He was responsible for the tour.


Reflections: Social Work Research Program Delegation to Cuba

I have had an ongoing interest and curiosity about Cuba since watching via television coverage, Fidel Castro fighting in a guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the late 1950s against the country’s dictator, Fulgencio Batistia. I was totally inspired by the notion that an old capitalist, sexist, racist society could be transformed into a nation of new women and men progressing together not because of the color of their skin or pedigree, but according to their individual need and ability. Since then the motivation and desire to visit Cuba was as intense and as intoxicating as the fragrance of her national flower, the mariposa.

Beginning with the aerial view of the Island, my first impressions were viscerally based. There was at first a feeling of sadness for what appeared to be a deterioration of buildings and a lack of natural beauty. Perhaps I was expecting a more picturesque, exotic view.

As our delegation moved into the interior of the Island, I experienced a rush of excitement and nostalgia; especially in seeing the large number of cars from the 1950s, currently used, for the most part, as taxis. This rush of excitement was coupled with the wish to have been able to communicate in Spanish, the language of our host country.

A shift in my awareness occurred as we began making person to person contacts with faculty colleagues from the University of Havana, agency representatives, and service consumers. I


found all of the visits and exchanges not only interesting and informative, but equally thought provoking. These contacts confirmed a point made by our lecturer who spoke on Cuba social and economic issues that one cannot begin to understand Cuba without knowing the context. I contend that this is especially true for outsiders or visitors to the island. In my opinion, the need for understanding context was evident during our entire visit. Two visits will be used to illustrate. The first is the Las Terrazas-eco-community that had its beginnings in the 1980s. It appears that an understanding of the historical as well as the current organizational structure is necessary to gain an appreciation of the current structure and ongoing dynamics of this extraordinary sustainable community. There appear to be some hesitancy in sharing information about structure and function. The second illustration involves an unexpected observation at a community center.

The center was organized in 2003 as an outgrowth of a concepts from the

work of Paulo Freire such as “Transformation of the World”, “Empowerment”, and “Liberatory Education”. Freire, a Brizilian educator, argued for a system of education that emphasizes learning as an act of culture and freedom. The community group from the center spoke of empowerment specifically as one of their goals in terms of Black women. They also spoke indirectly about racism and racialized responses based on skin pigmentation and the texture of one’s hair. We did not explore the implications of what was meant by the empowerment of Black women. The ambiance of this group reflected the concepts found in Freire’s teachings.

The community as well as the services delivered by this community centered program was described as diverse in terms of color (black and dark-skinned multiracial) and service specializations. The general tone and ethnic representation within this group made me think of a descriptive statement I read that was used to describe the so-called Afro-Cubans in Cuba: A


powerless (though I do not intent to suggest that this group viewed or would describe themselves as powerless) majority in their own country. Available data suggests that Afro-Cubans comprise approximately 62% of the island populations with over 80% incarcerated.

When I saw the arts and crafts at the craft markets that were produced by the Afro-Cuban community, I was reminded of the arts and crafts market in West Africa, most especially Ghana. The community center mentioned earlier also provided an amazing model of community engaged social work practice. According to the group, their mission is to comprehensively transform the community in physical, social, economic, cultural and environmental ways with the participation of the population, organizations and institutions, and by taking advantage of the potentialities of the neighborhood and the help of the municipal, provincial and national governments.

This community center was staffed by two profesionals employed by the state: a director and a social worker. The paid staff are supported by a cadre of diverse, passionate and committed people from the community who are described as consultants. These consultants serve the missi贸n of the center as volunteers.

The contacts with the University of Havana Sociology and Social Work faculty and the President of the Cuban Social Workers in Health Care provided and insightful and interesting perspective of the historical and current evolution of social work in Cuba. It appears that social work in Cuba


has an interesting beginning, evolution and current status. Essentially social work appears to be community based, but closely aligned with the health care system. I agree with our group’s consensus that it is more important to contextually understand social work in Cuba rather than to compare and contrast it in terms how it is practiced in the United States. The interaction with the social work community may be characterized as warm and welcoming. There was an openness and curiosity. It seems apparent that a solid potential exist for building strong and collaborative exchanges.

Overall, this experience has shown me how little I know about the Republic of Cuba. It is, therefore, my intention to research and learn about Cuba from an historical as well as current perspective. Additionally, I would like to know more about the quality of life and well-being of the families and children that constitute Cuba’s 20% living below the poverty level. I am also interested in learning more about the implications of race, identity and justice issues in Cuba. Finally, I would like to build an ongoing relationship with the community center described in this reflection and to collaborate on ways to address the women empowerment issues.

In addition to the incredible friendliness of the people, my essentials take away from this experience is that the experience was much like my experience of visiting other developing parts of the world. Although the Cuban Republic is only one hour away by air transport or 90 to 100 miles away from the mainland of the United States, it felt like I was visiting a forbidden place in a faraway country. Despite the economic, political, and social struggles experienced by the majority of the people on the island, I see tremendous potential for change and development.


However, I am also left with the troubling question of whether finding ways around the US embargo of Cuba to ease travel to the island as well as the increase of remittance flows (which supposedly only benefits certain segments of the population) will accelerate or retard the transition to a freer and socially equal Cuba. I also wonder deeply about the perception of and how the Cuban government’s definition of problems will impact the education, training and the role of future social workers.

Visions of Cuba  

Relfection on Cuba

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