Friday, January 3, 2014

This is Not a Post About Books - January . AKA Let's talk about Cuba.

This post is actually kind of about books, so liar liar pants on fire.

I'm a library clerk at a never-to-be-named law firm. And once a month the library staffs from all around the city where the never-to-be-named law firm is located get together and have a meeting. Sometimes there's vendor demonstrations, sometimes we just complain/share gossip, and sometimes there is a speaker.

We had a speaker recently and I thought that the topic was interesting and would make a fun blog post.
Jennie is the director of Pewaukee Public Library, she and 2 others (librarians, one being the director of my home base library) went to Cuba to take part in the International Book Festival earlier this year...well that was the plan at least.

The International Book Festival took place in an old military fort in Havana. Unexpectedly on display were some HUGE Russian missiles (you know, like the kind we had pointed at us not very long ago). The group thought that maybe something of the international incident type was afoot, but it turns out the Cuban government just trotted them out on display because they thought that people would enjoy seeing them.
The Book Festival wasn't enough to keep our adventurous librarians attention so they ditched the festival and got their explorer on!

Is...this going to be a problem....

A lot (read: almost everything) of things are named after Jose Marti. Jose Marti was a symbol for Cuba's independence from Spain, he was also a translator, poet, journalist, etc etc etc. His pictures were all over the place. Also lots of pictures of Che. But almost no pictures of Fidel, per his own instructions.

Jose! Again!

The illiteracy rate in Cuba is 3%. (Freaking 3%, it's amazing.) A large part of this is thanks to Fidel Castro's Literacy Campaign. The Campaign was basically this: people who could read (a lot of them young children) from the city move to a rural area for one year, stay with a local family, and teach that family how to read. To prove that they had become literate the families were asked to write a letter to Fidel. The Literacy Museum in Cuba has several hundred thousand letters of these letters from the 800,000 people who were taught to read during this campaign.(This makes my little book reading heart go all pitter-patter and warm and fuzzy).

Easy access to the internet is something I take incredibly for granted .The whole nation of Cuba was on dial-up until early 2012. Some parts of Cuba have been upgraded but Havana will be on dial-up for probably at least another 5 years. Also no one is allowed to have a private email address (like a gmail or a yahoo or what have you). Mostly the only people who have emails are state issued, and are held by state employees or educators. The internet is also heavily censored. Not a big surprise on that one.

When a lot of people picture Cuba they think of cool old cars (I think of mojitos, but I love mojitos and don't care about cars). I had assumed that the reason behind the lack of new cars had something to do with the embargo or that the cost was prohibitive. Turns out the real reason is that you are not allowed to own a car that was made post-revolution.So people really take care of their rides, because that's your only option. (Thank God this isn't a rule in the Midwest, we have too much salt damage and rust issues for a car to live that long).

Very subtle!

My sister always jokes that she wants to go to Cuba. (For her, I think, it's less about the history and the people, but more like she wants to look at their hotels and she hates when people tell her what she can and can't do). I used to make fun of her, but now I totally would go with a safe, legal way that would allow me to get back into the country.

Buckets upon buckets of thanks go to Jennie for letting me use some of her hundreds and hundreds of pictures and for letting me do a little write up on her talk.

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