Fabiola Santiago: I went to school in Cuba under Castro. Here’s what it’s like, Bernie Sanders.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article240425431.html

I went to school in Cuba under Castro. Here’s what it’s like, Bernie Sanders.

By Fabiola Santiago

February 25, 2020

Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, pictured in third grade in Cuba, was ostracized for not wearing her school uniform with the required scarf of the young Communist pioneers.

Look at the little girl in the picture.

In her serious demeanor, a front for fear — and in her story — you might find, Senator Bernie Sanders, some of the profundity lacking in your populist bid to become the Democratic nominee and 46th U.S. president.

This girl’s real-life experience is the antidote to your cheap, propagandist talking points on Cuba’s education system and Fidel Castro.

The banner behind her tells you her school in the city of Matanzas is confiscated property. “Intervenida” is the euphemism the new government led by Castro used to swoop in and appropriate every asset in the country, not only from the wealthy but from the middle class, too.

And, to make the point that this is now Castro country, take it or leave it, the private school is renamed after his 26th of July Movement.

“You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program,” you told “60 Minutes” host Anderson Cooper. “Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

https://twitter.com/60Minutes/status/1231732950540132355

Let’s break it all down.

The girl is 8 and in the third grade, the daughter of a beloved and respected teacher forced to resign over her refusal to teach Communist dogma to her students. (More on the mother later.)

Her father, a merchant of flour goods, sees his small, one-man business operation confiscated, and when he declines to continue to operate it as an employee of the state, he is sent to work in the agriculture fields as punishment.

Everyone in town knows the family is leaving the country to the United States.

Like the thousands before them and thousands along with them, they’re branded “gusanos,” worms — and this creates a lot of tension for the children in your idyllic “literacy system.”

The girl has never scored below a 96 on any test.

She’s No. 1 on the honor roll — and the principal wants her to wear the state-mandated red scarf of the Communist youth organization, los pioneros, or she’s out. Her parents refuse. Her mother is called in for a conference. The women argue.

The truce: The price for not wearing the pañoleta is being knocked down to second place for lack of revolutionary spirit. The top spot will go to a boy who is an eager and loyal pionerito (like decades later, a returned Elián González would be, too).

The girl is sad to lose the place she worked hard for over a scarf she sort of liked and everyone gets to wear, except for her and her little brother. But she loves her friends, no matter whether they’re leaving or staying, or if they chant every morning —“Pioneers, for Communism! We will be like Che” — or stay silent like she does.

Communist indoctrination

As the years pass and the wait for a visa wears on, she learns to work around the Communist indoctrination.

When she’s asked to write a glowing essay on Fidel Castro, she writes biography, complete, thorough, but no glowing appraisal because at 10, she knows more than Bernie Sanders at 78.

She’s a little more effusive with Camilo Cienfuegos, the more charismatic comandante who mysteriously “disappeared” during a plane flight. Even she, a child, suspects foul play.

Her little brother, a smart-aleck class clown, also has to make adjustments.

When his teacher asks him to form a sentence with the words “agrarian reform,” her brother eagerly chimes in out loud: “The agrarian reform is very sour!” His sentence rhymes in Spanish — and it’s a hit with classmates, but not with the teacher, an ardent revolutionary.

She is so mad she grabs him by an ear and pulls so hard and long that the boy bleeds all the way home. The next day, the mother goes to school and she could be heard screaming to the teacher that if she ever touches one of her kids again, she’ll be the one dragged down the street.

The girl fears that her mother could go to jail and she would be without parents. But her mother is still respected because she had earned the place she gave up on principle.

Literacy predates Castro

See, despite your claims, senator, that it was Castro who started a literacy program in Cuba, a common and often-repeated lie, the girl’s mother worked in a literacy program in the countryside after graduation from a teacher’s college in the early 1950s.

Teachers had to do so to earn their spot in a city classroom.

She drove a Jeep (bought by her oldest businessman brother, who paid for her schooling) part of the way, then she rode a horse that was brought to her so she could reach the one-room school house.

This isn’t a tall tale of Cuban exiles in Miami. There are photos of all the above to prove it.

In one, she’s tending to the garden planted in front of the school, while a student peeks from inside. The back is inscribed: “First school where I was able to practice my profession as a teacher. San Gregorio Farm. Ceiba Mocha, Matanzas, Cuba.”

Yes, by the time she leaves Cuba in 1969, this girl knows that the Cuban education system is dogmatic and abusive to innocent children who are ostracized for their parents’ beliefs.

Her parents’ heart-wrenching decision to leave it all behind and start a new life in Miami, saves her from worse. After their 12th birthdays, her friends have to enroll in la escuela al campo. They have to leave their home and their parents to live in barracks in the countryside and work in agricultural fields.

Because the “free education” in Cuba isn’t free, and the Castro literacy program the American left has bought into is rooted in indoctrination and devotion to the one-party political system.

Your apparatchik views on Cuba, senator, are as old and dated as the photos of me and my mother.

Sixty-one years of unrelenting dictatorship later, and in the year 2020, the least Florida Democrats looking forward to the primary in March deserve from the front-runner is lucidity, not more obfuscation.

But when you can’t even verbalize on “60 Minutes” how you’ll fund your signature healthcare project, pay for all that free college and child care you’re offering, what else can be expected on Cuba?

You are who you are, a populist riding a wave of discontent, as unfit for the presidency as your rival on the other side of the political spectrum.

Truly not yours, the little girl in the photograph, a registered Democrat in swing-state Florida.

February 26, 2020. Tags: , , , , . Bernie Sanders, Communism, Education. Leave a comment.