Tuesday, April 25, 2006

To ban or not ban, that is the question.

By now you all know about the controversy surrounding a children's book called A Visit to Cuba which is stocked in several public school libraries in Miami-Dade county. I wanted to something constructive so I decided to obtain the book and transcribe its entire contents so that people could decide for themselves whether this book is propaganda or not. You'll find the transcription below along with descriptions of the pictures in the book and then some thoughts from me. But first I wanted to post a quote from Bob Kent, the co-chair of Friends of Cuban Libraries, who is doing yeoman's work in defending Cuba's independent librarians.

The ultimate test of our commitment to intellectual freedom comes when the rights of people with whom we disagree are challenged. Such a test is now occurring in Florida, where the Miami school board has removed a book, "Let's Go to Cuba," [sic] from the shelves of a school library...

Our members and supporters may not like the contents of "Let's Go to Cuba," [sic] but we will stand by our commitment to defend intellectual freedom as a universal human right. Accordingly, our organization is sending a letter to the Miami school board to protest the censorship of "Let's Go to Cuba" [sic] and calling for its return to the library shelf. If someone objects to a library book, the best solution is to place a book expressing contrary views next to it on the shelf, allowing readers to use their own judgement to decide which book is telling the truth...

Predictably, our opponents have seized upon the Miami incident involving one schoolbook and the current U.S. ban on computer sales to Cuba while, at the same time, they ignore the Castro regime's burning of thousands of library books, life prison terms for librarians, criminalization of the Internet and a ban on the ownership of unregistered computers. Despite our opponents' hypocrisy, we in the Friends of Cuban Libraries will stand by our principles and defend intellectual freedom as a universal right, even for people like our opponents, who cruelly deny this right to others. By honoring our commitment to the principle of intellectual freedom for all, we follow in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson: "We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

A visit to Cuba.
Picture of 5 children in uniforms (not sure if they are pionero uniforms, I wouldn't know difference between them and perhaps regular school uniforms. The uniforms are like red lederhosen with a blue scarf)

Page 1:
A Visit to Cuba.
Picture: A map of the world with the continents labled
Alta Shreier
Heinemann Library
Chicago, Illinois

Page 2:
Publishing info. The book was published in 2001

Page 3:
Table of Contents

Page 4:
Map of Cuba
Cuba is a country in the Caribbean Sea, south of Florida. It is one big island with some smaller ones nearby.

Page 5:
Picture of a small plaza in Cuba taken from a balcony (probably Old Havana) Below are some tables set up with handicrafts. Several people are walking with bicycles.
People in Cuba eat, work and go to school like you do. Life in Cuba is also unique.

Page 6:
Picture of a fertile valley with palm trees and crops growing.
Cuba has flat plains that are used for farmland. There are also sandy beaches and coral reefs. The weather in Cuba is very warm.

Page 7:
Picture of green mountains
There are mountains in Cuba, too. The mountains are covered with forests.

Page 8:
Picture of old Cuban Capitol building.
The capital of Cuba is Havana. The capitol building in Havana looks like the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC.

Page 9:
Picture of Morro with Harbor and Havana skyline in background.
Morro Castle is an old fort. It was built by people from Spain. It was used 400 years ago to protect Havana from pirates.

Page 10:
Picture of several people walking down a wide avenue.
Most Cubans live in cities. The cities are crowded, so many people live in apartment buildings. There are some beautiful old buildings. There are new buildings too.

Page 11:
Picture of several bohios.
Most homes in the country are simple. Some are made of wood from palm trees.The have roofs of palm leaves or grasses.

Page 12:
Picture of a metal tray with food in the various compartments. Rice, banana, yucca.
White rice is the most common food in Cuba. Sometimes it is mixed with black beans. Chicken with rice is popular, too.

Page 13:
Picture of black man in window behind a table where he is displaying a handful of produce items.
Many kinds of fruits grow in Cuba. Bananas, pineapples, oranges, and mangoes are favorites. Yucca is a plant people eat as a vegetable.

Page 14:
Picture of two black women with several black children sitting on the Malecon wall.
Cubans dress to keep cool in the hot weather. Many children wear shorts and T-shirts.

Page 15:
Picture of several black men and women dressed in colorful carnaval attire.
For special festivals, men wear white pants and white shirts. Women wear colorful ruffled dresses.

Page 16:
Picture of woman in cigar factory with several bundles of cigars on the table in front of her and several old scales around her.
Some Cubans work in factories that make cigars or sugar. There are also factories where people make cloth, shoes, paper, and farm tools.

Page 17:
Picture of several men working a field
In the country, there are large farms. The workers there grow sugarcane and tobacco. There are also farms for vegetables, such as lettuce, onions, and carrots.

Page 18:
Picture of antique American car.
There are not many cars in Cuba. In the cities, some people drive old cars from the United States. Most Cubans travel by bus.

Page 19:
Picture of shoeless shirtless boy leading a train of 4 oxen down a dirt path on a farm.
On country roads, people use animals to pull wagons. Animals are also used to help farmers in their fields.

Page 20
Picture of a group of people waiting, perhaps in line. A sign behind them has some words written in Spanish.
Most people in Cuba speak Spanish. This is because Cuba was settled by people from Spain.

Page 21:
Picture of the façade of an old building (probably Old Havana) with some lettering on tile mosaic. “Joyeria Relojes Articulos de Plata” , “Ca 91” and “Objetos de Arte”
Spanish uses some of the same letters as English. There are also some extra letters in the Spanish alphabet.

Page 22:
Picture of young several schoolchildren in uniforms (see note about uniforms, above).
Cuban children go to school between thee ages of five and fourteen. They wear uniforms to school. There are different colored uniforms for different ages.

Page 23:
Older boy at chalkboard doing math equations.
In school, children learn math, reading, and history. All schoolchildren do some kind of work during their school day. Some children work in gardens. Older children may work in factories.

Page 24:
Free Time
Picture of Cuban baseball baseball player attempting to tag a runner.
Baseball is Cuba’s national sport. Cuba won the gold medal in baseball in the 1996 Olympic Games.

Page 25:
Picture of beach with rock formation in the background. (All of the bathers are white and appear to be tourists judging by their girth and propensity to wear speedos.)
Cuba’s beaches are good for swimming and boating. People like to dive and fish. There are also rowboat and sailboat races.

Page 26:
Picture of several black women and children in carnaval attire.
Cuba’s biggest celebration is called Carnival. It is held o July 26. People dance and sing at this festival.

Page 27:
Picture of several black men with percussion instruments and metal objects.
Some people who settled in Cuba were Roman Catholics. Other people who lived in Cuba were from Africa. So some Cuban celebrations mix African and Catholic beliefs.

Page 28:
The Arts
Picture of several black men playing the congas and a black older woman dancing.
Cuban music mixes sounds from Africa and Spain. Musicians use guitars, drums, and gourds to make music and a beat. Dances from Cuba are popular around the world.

Page 29:
Picture of rock wall with figures painted on it.
In one valley in Cuba, there are large, colorful paintings on some rocks. Inside the rocks are caves. The caves have paintings made by people who lived in Cuba about 1,000 years ago.

Page 30:
Fact File
Name The Republic of is the country’s full name.
Capital Cuba’s Capital is Havana.
Language The people speak Spanish.
Population There are about eleven million people living in Cuba.
Money Cuban money is called the peso.
Religion Many Cubans are Roman Catholics, but West African beliefs are important.
Products Sugar is Cuba’s most important product, but tobacco and a metal called nickel are also sent other countries.

Words You Can Learn
Hola (OH-la) Hello
Adiós (ah-dee-OS) goodbye
Sí (see) yes
No (no) no
Gracias (GRAH-see-ahs) thank you
Por favor (pore fah-VOR) please
Uno/una (un-oh, un-ah) one
Dos (dohs) two
Tres (trays) three

Page 31:
Several words used in the book that were in bold are in the glossary

Example: Olympic Games international sports competition held every four years.

Page 32:

More Books to Read

Dah, Michael S. Cuba. Danbury, Conn.: Children’s Press, 1998.

Mara, William P. Cuba. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, Inc., 1998

Staub, Frank J. Children of Cuba. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group, 1996. An older reader can help you with this book.

Back Cover:
How do some people in Cuba get from place to place?
What kind of fruits grow in Cuba?
Which spiky plant do some Cubans eat as a vegetable?

Learn the answers to these questions and more when you read A Visit to: Cuba. See the famous sites. Travel over the land. Join in the celebrations. Find out what Cuban children learn in school and what they might do when they are older. See if they play the same sports as you or wear the same kind of clothes. Learn some words in Spanish!

Titles in the A Visit to series include:
Costa Rica
Puerto Rico
The United Kingdom

My thoughts: The book certainly paints a cheery picture of Cuba. But the subject matter is very light. From what I have read about this series of books the main objective is to teach very young children about some similarities and differences between various countries and the US. The subject of politics is not touched. Of course, Cuba's problems are not highlighted but as one reader posted on another forum I doubt they highlight the Brazilian favelas in the book about Brazil.

I agree with Bob Kent that we shouldn't be in the habit of censoring information in our country, disagree with it though we might. If I had a child and he/she brought this book home to me, it would certainly start a constructive discussion about the reality of life in Cuba, the freedoms we enjoy in the United States and about digging deeper to learn more and not simply accepting something because it's been printed in a book. These are lessons that I think most people would agree are valuable for kids growing up today.


Anonymous said...

i dont mind they have that book in libraries,but if its gonna be a school book,then they are suppouse to have "the other side" of the real cuba,i mean,another book showing realities about the cuba of today,in schools,in the country,in the city,,etc.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

The book is not in any Miami-Dade school curriculum. It is a library book. There is no practical way to screen every book in the library to ensure that there is another book providing a counterpoint to any of the thousands of statements that may be contained in it. I bet the communist manifesto is on those same library shelves, yet there is no movement to ban it. Free countries simply don't ban books.

David Sierra said...

Thank you for posting the text of this book. I am a Cuban who have learned to love this country for innumerable reasons, but one of the most important reason is for its historical persistence in intellectual freedom. After 45 year in this leaving and enjoying the fruits of this country, I am ashamed and sadden by my compatriots who insist, unknowing and ignorantly, in establishing a the same ideas that has kept Castro in power for almost half a century. It is the kind of thinking that makes me wonder if we Cubans deserve anything other than a totalitarian society or an enless exile; or that perhaps we deserve both.