Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I am sitting here watching The Today Show and wishing I were with Matt in Havana, Cuba! I recognize all of the places shown after two visits to that absolutely gorgeous Caribbean country. Of all the islands I have visited, the people in Cuba are the most friendly and helpful. I had such fun with the children, many of whom spoke English. I was enchanted with the National Library's Children's Room. It was full of children working on homework and curled up reading when I visited. They were very friendly, though some were shy. The middle school we visited had hand written cards in the catalog and their pride in the books they had, though few, was clear. Their little one room library was packed to the gills with students doing research from old almanacs and atlases. No Internet terminals. The literary rate in Cuba is one of the highest in the world. Puts the U.S. to shame. The statement was made this morning that the average daily salary in Cuba is 50 cents. Although there are no homeless people on the beach and streets like I have seen in other Caribbean countries, the quality of housing is deplorable in many instances. The beautiful old buildings in Old Havana are falling down around their heads. The issue of the rich Cubans who left Cuba when Castro took control returning to Cuba and taking back their property came up, which won't happen. We are the only country who doesn't have an involvement in this country's economy. The beaches are full of Canadians and Europeans. And, U.S. products are purchased in the "$ stores" in Cuba. A bottle of Johnson's Baby Shampoo is almost $9! I frequently the $ store near the hotel for my Diet Coke, although it wasn't the "real thing" as it was a foreign made Coke product, sweetened with something else. The cola in Cuba is sweet and syrupy and not at all pleasant to drink. But, the rum is to die for! :-) Fascinating - baseball, boxing, and ballet - the three "B's" in Cuba. I knew about the baseball, but not the other two.

There has been a huge book challenge in the Miami-Dade schools about Vamos a Cuba by Alta Schreier, one of many titles in the Heinemann Raintree series of books on countries. This is the Spanish edition of the series, which is also available in English. This books infuriated Miami Cubans because it portrayed Cuba in a positive light. http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/censorship/26010prs20060621.html
The ACLU got involved to voice their disagreement with what the School Board did - they ignored the Advisory Committee's decision and the Superintendent's recommendation to keep the book in the school libraries and voted to remove the entire series from the schools! Cases like this show how emotional censorship cases can become. Anyone who says we don't have an emotional response to books hasn't read about this controversy! So much for the idea of a variety of points of view should be available to children and teens! Rather than removing the book, find another to balance the information available. With this response to the book, the school board acted like the Cuban government - remove any book that doesn't agree with their point of view. Ironic to say the least!

My Cuba "fix" on NBC is almost over so I need to get my act together and refocus on booktalks! :-)