Cuba literacy fight veteran to tour US East Coast

By Brian Williams
January 22, 2018

Supporters of the Cuban Revolution are taking advantage of the exciting opportunity to organize an East Coast tour for Griselda Aguilera Cabrera Jan. 31-Feb. 23. At the age of 7, Aguilera was the youngest participant in the revolution’s mass literacy campaign in 1961 that taught workers and peasants across the island how to read and write, eliminating illiteracy in less than year. She is featured in the documentary “Maestra” (Teacher), produced by Catherine Murphy, about the campaign. Murphy helped organize Aguilera’s trip to the U.S.

Tour stops are currently set for Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Miami.

Through Aguilera’s meetings hundreds of people will have the opportunity to learn more about Cuba’s socialist revolution and what a difference it makes when working people take political power for themselves.

Over 250,000 Cubans volunteered in the literacy effort. Some 100,000 of them were under the age of 18, the majority female. Many went into rural areas, living and working with the peasants — a real learning experience for both the poor farmers and the young literacy volunteers from the cities. And they did so in some areas facing armed counterrevolutionaries seeking to destroy the new government.

The literacy campaign was one of the major steps in the transformation of Cuban working people, enabling them to run their own country. It was implemented after the July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.

Aguilera participated in the literacy effort in Havana, teaching Carlos Perez Isla, a 58-year-old street cleaner who was totally illiterate, how to read. She explains how they learned from each other.

Like the vast majority of the literacy volunteers, Aguilera became a firm supporter of the revolution. She became an adult educator in Cuba’s construction industry. Heading up the training department, she gave classes on the economic and cultural aspects of workers running industry in a socialist country. Topics included everything from how to expand productivity to benefit Cuba’s people to health and safety on the job to how to work while maximizing protection of the environment. Learning about this can be a real education for workers in the U.S.

She also developed and coordinated the campaign for workers in the industry to reach first a sixth and then a ninth grade educational level.

“I’m super excited about this tour,” Samir Hazboun from Knoxville told the Militant in a phone interview Jan. 5. Through the literacy campaign, “those growing up in cities learned about how hard it was to live in the countryside and helped bridge these two worlds.”

Hazboun is helping set up an event for Aguilera to speak at the Communications Workers of America hall there. “The union is restarting an education series so they’re pretty excited about it,” he said. Hazboun is also working with a professor to set up a meeting at the University of Tennessee.

“The tour can help build participation in the upcoming May Day brigade to Cuba,” he said. Hazboun joined the “In the Footsteps of Che” Cuba brigade last October. “People of all walks of life are hungry to learn about Cuba, to learn about what an alternative to capitalism can look like.”

Film showings of “Maestra” will be included in tour events.

For more information on the tour, contact Ike Nahem at (917) 887-8710, or email: