“ When Libraries reach the people ” Eliades Acosta Matos. Dtor “Jose Marti” National Library. Havana, Cuba.
<ul><li>During a period that lasted for more than 30 years, Cuban people struggled against Spanish colonialism winning freedom and independence. In those struggles together, the blacks, whites, and Chinese had the same task, creating the Cuban people of today. </li></ul>
Jose Marti founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892 in New York, an organization that renewed the struggle against Spain in 1895. Many outstanding Cuban leaders, such as Marti and Antonio Maceo, died in combat, but Spain could not prevent Cuba's independence. José Martí Antonio Maceo
<ul><li>In 1889, when Spain was almost defeated, the United States intervened in the war, on the pretext that one of its battleships, the "Maine", was blown up in Havana's port in February. This opportunist intervention forced Spain to withdraw from its colony but did not guarantee real independence for the Cuban people. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The intervention of American troops in Cuba lasted four years. On May 20th, 1902 they withdrew, leaving a puppet president and a Constitution with an amendment that allowed them to intervene on Cuban issues whenever they wanted. </li></ul>Tomás Estrada Palma
The Cuban Republic, from 1902 to 1958, was not able to guarantee sovereignty, social justice, racial and equal opportunities, access to culture, education and health for the Cuban people.
In1952, General Batista carried out a coup d’état, supported by the American government. He established a fierce military dictatorship that took the lives of more than twenty thousand youth.
On July 26th, 1953, a group of revolutionary youth, led by Fidel Castro, began the struggle against the dictatorship, attacking the ‘’Moncada’’ in Santiago de Cuba. That attempt failed, more than 70 young men were murdered, and the rest were sent to prison.
<ul><li>In1955, due to popular pressure, Batista announced an amnesty. Fidel and his comrades-in-arms were sent into exile. In December 1956, a group of 82 men on board the yacht ‘’Granma’’, disembarked in Oriente province on the eastern end of the island. Even though they were decimated, a small group managed to get to the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, where the struggle was re-started. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The Rebel Army was supported by the Cuban people and after two years of difficult battles against Batista’s army, a force that had been trained and armed by American military advisors, managed to defeat the dictatorship. The Revolution triumphed on January 1st, 1959. </li></ul>
In1959, the Revolution was faced with a country that had a populace that was 30% illiterate, and had only 32 public libraries which were in a deplorable state to meet the needs of 6 million people. The first revolutionary measure issued was to turn the military barracks into schools.
Literacy Campaign used some words of Jose Marti as slogan: "to be cultured is to be free". In 1961 Cuba was declared a "Territory Free of Illiteracy”.
Beginning with the National Library, a network of public libraries was created throughout the country. A large number of courses began for librarians and many low-priced books were published for the people.
The cultural policy of the Cuban Revolution is based on these words of Fidel: ‘’ We don’t tell the people to believe; but to read’’
<ul><li>Cuba, despite the blockade and U.S. government hostilities has: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The highest per capita of doctors in the world. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The highest per capita of teachers in the world. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>413 public libraries in the country with over 10 millions of volumes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>6000 school libraries. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Library networks specialized in science and technology, medicine and agriculture. </li></ul></ul>
"Jose Marti" National Library holds an important bibliographic collection, formed by more than 4 million volumes. Methodologically, it leads the National System of Public Libraries and the Reading National Program. http://www.bnjm.cu
During 2004, the National Library, served over 92,000 patrons and offered 225,000 services, while the National System of Public Libraries served more than 8 million patrons and provided 13 million services. Currently, Cuba has a population of more than 11 million people and illiteracy has been eradicated.
Cuban libraries and librarians walk together with their people through a new stage of deep educational and cultural transformations in which the country currently is undergoing called the "Struggle of Ideas". One of its main tasks is to create university studies in each Cuban municipality.
In the middle of this new educational campaign, each Cuban school has the proper audiovisual means for learning: computers, videos and TVs. Two new educational television channels were created, and even in the far away country schools, solar panels for power supply were installed.
Havana’s Book Fairs, which gather million of visitors, were spread out to 32 cities on previous years through all the country, for giving the possibility to all people to join this party of knowledge.
The Cuban assistance on health, education and culture fields spans to dozens of peoples from 3rd World. More than 50 thousand Cuban physicians give free services on the poorest regions in the Earth. Cuban teachers struggle against illiteracy in all continents.
I bring for all South African librarians and teachers the warmest regards from Cuban librarians, and an offer for beginning a professional exchanges program to support the work they do. First of all, we will sign a collaborative agreement with the National Library of South Africa and then, we’ll take the opportunity of our visit in order to know closer your needs, to be able to start our friendly support there, wherever you require.
In the same way as the international Cubans troops contributed with their blood to end apartheid in the glorious battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Cuban librarians are together with you, in a struggle against illiteracy, ignorance and lack of culture, for freedom, equality and development. ¡We will overcome!