Memories of a Cuban 5th grader: Profe Barbarita & Politics of Hate

Libertas Blog

Living in Cuba no es fácil . La verdad. But when you are a kid, the problems that anguish your parents don’t even faze you. That is, if your parents were good at hiding those problems from you. And boy, were my parents good.
Cuba has many problems. Food problems. Government problems. Se fue la luz y el agua problems. But more importantly, as any Cuban will tell you, we sometimes have a Chivaton problem.
And that’s how I lost my “political” innocence in the 5th grade.
But first, some lessons in Cuban slang:
Chivato or Chivaton: A police informer, a snitch. The quintessential communist government bootlicker who will ruin your day by reporting you to the authorities for no other reason than to joderte el dia!
My 5th grade teacher, Barbarita, was a Chivaton(a). She was the real deal. I distinctly remember her tears of joy when the U.N had just voted to adopt another one of its useless resolutions condemning the Cuban Embargo.
That rare type of Cuban that you can’t find anymore. The one that doesn’t have to fake a smile at the pro-government marches where employees are coerced to attend. The type who, until this day, unironically refer to Fidel Castro as “Comandante en Jefe”.
Barbara genuinely believed in La revolución, even when La revolución had stopped believing in her.
But what can I say, she was a pleasant person and an exceptional teacher. A woman who in the early 2000s must have been somewhere in her late 40s. Raised during the Cold-war, and like many other Cubans, a survivor of the infamous Periodo Especial. She was battled hardened by material necessity , and if she still believed in Fidel’s Communism after all that, she wasn’t about to change.
Barbara teaches us a lesson about hate.
Sadly, one of my earliest memories of the filth that is ideological orthodoxy comes from her.
I remember that it was a slow day at school. We had just finished all of our assignments and Profe Barbarita allowed the class to get into groups so that we could talk. She was sitting at her desk, reading a book, lost in the pages…..or so we thought.
At some point, in between our prepubescent screeching and super-interesting 5th grader conversations – one of us, probably not me, steered the conversation towards a subject of “Anti-revolutionary” character. Who knows what was said, maybe we made fun of Fidel’s beard, or repeated an anti-government comment we heard at home the day before.
It doesn’t matter. It was enough for Barbara to spring from her creaky chair like a bat out of hell.

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