Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cuban Youth Share Their Dreams And A Desire To Know More About The World

Maria Luiza Lago /
A bus station in Havana, Cuba.

By Maria Luiza Lago
HAVANA, Cuba – Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to have your TV channels controlled, to have limited or no access to computers or the internet, or not to be free to speak your mind in public.
I wanted to know what that was like, so on a trip to Cuba, I interviewed some young people around Havana about their lives and dreams.
I met 15-year-old Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño at the beach in a small town near Havana called Varadero.
She told me that the Internet exists in Cuba, but it’s very expensive, so not a lot of people have access to it.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño
plays the laúd, a type of guitar,
and wants to be successful
with her music.
She has never left Cuba, Bolaño said, and was in Varadero to celebrate her birthday. She plays an instrument called the Laúd, which is a plectrum-plucked chordophone from Spain, similar to a guitar.
Bolaño studies in Havana at the Escuela Nacional de Arte, a national arts school and said she dreams of being successful with her music.
At the bus station in Havana, I met a lot of young people.
I found 16-year-old Roberto Mantilla, who is taking college preparatory classes. He told me he wants to be a doctor.
Maria Luiza Lago/
Roberto Mantilla
wants to be a doctor.
Mantilla likes to go the beach with his friends to practice sports and doesn’t intend to leave Cuba. He said he didn’t have a clue of what he wanted in the future, and was a little bit shy to speak.
Antonio Viscoy, 18, was even more timid when I tried to interview him. He kept looking at my notebook, which contained my prepared questions. He just answered “yes” or “no” to most of them, in a low voice.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Antonio Viscoy said he didn't
have any dreams but expects 
to be happy.
Viscoy is at university studying to be a Spanish teacher. He said he thinks it is good to be a Cuban teenager, but didn’t specify why.
He feels he has everything he needs here in Cuba, Viscoy said. I tried to ask him why, but he just said, “Because I think so.”
Viscoy expects to be a happy man in the future. When I asked about his dreams, he said he didn’t have one.
The next person I spoke with was a 13 year-old boy, Jimmy Curos Vinent. He studies at Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba – the national ballet school in Cuba – and is in 7th grade.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Jimmy Curos Vinent, 13, wants
to be a professional dancer.
Vinent dances classic ballet and since he was eight years old, has dreamed of being a professional dancer, just like the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who has won dozens of awards in his career.
He has good opportunities for the future, Vinent said. He said his school helps him not just to learn, but to be a better person, to get to know other cultures and their stories.
Alejandro Sevile, 23, was the first person to tell me that is “a little hard” to be a Cuban teenager. He said he misses freedom.
Sevile used to study mechanic engineering, but he quit to work as a bartender.  He was a little shy and on his way to work when we spoke.
When I asked Sevile if he had any dreams, he hesitated for a moment. He said he had many, but the one he revealed to me was his desire to know other countries.
One of the young people I met, 19-year-old Iracema, wouldn’t tell me her last name.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Alejandro Sevile wants to learn
about other countries.
She’s finished with her studies, Iracema said, and works in an Identification Institution, similar to a notary’s office.
She said she likes being a Cuban teenager, that she feels really safe.
But Iracema pointed out that Cuban schools should have more computers, especially in chemistry and physics classes. When she was a student, she said, writing by hand was the only option.
As for Iracema’s dreams, she said she wants to travel around the world, mostly to Europe.
As I spoke with these Cuban youth, I realized most of them were shy, and I felt that most of them were afraid of answering my questions.
Maria Luiza Lago /
Iracema, who wouldn't give her
last name, wants to travel
around the world, especially
to Europe.

None of them had left their country, but they said they didn’t feel isolated. They don’t want to move away from Cuba, they said, but they do want to travel and know the world a little bit better.
I wondered how they could say that they’re not missing anything in Cuba since they haven’t ever left the country or enjoyed some other liberties that young people in other places have.
It’s hard to miss something you don’t know about or have, and even more difficult for them to understand how young people live in other countries.
While these young people seem isolated to me, I think they’ll achieve their dreams, if they work hard. What I don’t know if they’ll ever know freedom like I do.
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