Inspiration for Anita’s Revolution
Read the first chapter here.
Imagine you are the leader of a small, poor Caribbean country. You want to make a lot of changes, especially broad social changes. The country needs to educate the uneducated, provide public health to all, make workplace and land reforms and generally improve the standard of living–especially for the peasants who have been ignored by society and successive governments for hundreds of years. But how can such big changes be achieved when a million adults, almost a quarter of the population of the country, are completely illiterate. This is the situation that Cuba faced when the revolutionary government, led by Fidel Castro, took over in 1959. Teaching those illiterate people to read and write so they could participate in the changes and benefit from them was fundamental, but how to do it?
Fidel Castro announced before the United Nations in 1960 that Cuba would be “a territory free from illiteracy” by the end of 1961. How Cuba achieved that goal is what Anita’s Revolution is about. Cuba called upon its young people to volunteer to become teachers, and more than 100,000 of them answered the call. It was to be the adventure of their lives! Supplied with two army-style uniforms, boots, a beret, a hammock, a wool blanket and a Coleman-style lantern, the brigadistas—members of the literacy brigades—spread out over the island to live, work alongside and teach those forgotten people how to read and write.
The character “Anita” wants to volunteer, but first she must overcome her parent’s objections. It’s not a job for kids, they say. Counter-revolutionaries are causing havoc everywhere. It’s way too dangerous! Anita gets to become one of those 100,000 brigadistas, and it is through her adventures, experiences and challenges that we come to understand how the collective effort of those teenagers changed the future of a million people and the island nation called Cuba.
Anita’s Revolution is a tribute to the potential and spirit of youth.
I lived and worked in Cuba almost five years during the mid-sixties, a few years after Cuba’s National Literacy Campaign had accomplished its initial goal of basic literacy. Everywhere I went, I saw classes taking place―in the lobbies of hotels, in workplace cafeterias, in apartment building vestibules–even in the open air of parks. Adults who had achieved basic literacy in 1961 were studying throughout the years I was there to achieve elementary and secondary school levels.
Today, Cuba struggles with many problems, but illiteracy is not one of them. 2011 was the 50th anniversary year of having reduced illiteracy nation-wide from 25% of the population to 3.9%. Cuba never slipped back. As I write this, organizations such as UNESCO and The World Bank state that Cuba enjoys a literacy rate of almost 100%. It all started with the decision in 1961 to make Cuba “a territory free from illiteracy”. How this was done is an amazing and fascinaing story for all ages, one that most people I encountered over the years knew nothing about. Anita’s Revolution celebrates the campaign, the people and the spirit that ended almost five centuries of ignorance when on December 22, 1961, Cuba raised a flag declaring itself “A Territory Free From Illiteracy.”
Read the first chapter here.