The Student Who Did Not Want To 'Ride With Fidel' / 14ymedio, Reinaldo
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 February 2017 — David Mauri
Cardoso, a 24-year-old from Cienfuegos, dreamt of being lawyer but could
not successfully pass a test of dishonesty. In appearance it was a test
of Spanish, but what was being evaluated was his capacity to fake it.
Along with 30 other young people, who had not been admitted to higher
education through the standard entrance exams, David was part of an
experiment where workers were enrolled in the first year of Law School
at the Carlos Rafael Rodriguez University in Cienfuegos and then
assessed on their knowledge of Math, History and Spanish.
The exams were conducted in January and David was one of twenty students
who had made it to the end of the previous stage. He finished high
school in 2011, and after several failed attempts to enter the
university, this seemed to be his last chance.
Everything seemed to be fine until the first week of February, when they
summoned him to a Disciplinary Council. His "incorrectness" is described
in the Teaching Regulation of Higher Education, where it specifies "it
is a very serious error to say or do anything against the Revolutionary
Process." The punishment established for this behavior is expulsion from
the higher education system in any program throughout the country. On
Friday, 10 February, the resolution imposing this punishment was signed.
What, in fact, did David do?
The Spanish test consisted of writing an interpretation of a fragment of
the lyrics from the song "Riding with Fidel," which flooded the airwaves
after the death of the former Cuban president at the end of November 2016.
David tells 14ymedio how he reacted when he read Question No. 5, which
inquired about what he had felt when he honored the ashes of the
historic leader of the Revolution. "I realized I was not in a position
to fully respond, because that wasn't the case for me. The question was
based on an erroneous supposition, because I had not participated in the
acts of homage to Fidel Castro, nor did I personally honor him in a
Before the exam, he had prepared himself to identify a simile or a
metaphor and felt capable of parsing a text to indicate subordinate or
juxtaposed sentences and to call out with precision grammatical mistakes
in any verb. But, he said, "To adjust to what they were asking me I
responded with total honestly about what this person had meant to me. I
was respectful because no one has the right to insult others. I gave my
opinion in the framework of good manners."
David recorded in his own handwriting the misery, the destruction of the
foundations of society and the injustices. He dared to use the term
"authoritarian" to define the established system in his country and at
some point, without his pulse trembling, he wrote the word "dictatorship."
"In short, I only offered my personal opinion, which is exactly what
they asked of me," he says with the simplicity of one who does not
believe he has performed a historic act.
The person in charge of grading the exam must have felt very troubled in
the face of such a demonstration of sincerity. David chose not to name
names, his Christian ethics precludes it. Nor did he mention the
identity of a Spanish-language methodologist at the provincial level who
is, at the end of the day, the person who assumed the responsibility of
lodging a complaint.
Here, the young student makes a legal argument. "This exam, more than a
private text, was a confidential document. Something between the
professor and the student that did not have to be sent on under any
And therein lies the key, because David did not make statements to
foreign television, nor did he publish an opinion piece in the
independent press, nor did he go out into the street with a poster, all
of which would have been his right.
In the sacred intimacy of the classroom, he offered his opinion, which
was what was asked of him. Without his consent, his responses were
"elevated" and analyzed under extra-academic rules.
Not a single one of David's classmates was consulted on this sanction
because according to the regulation that ordinarily requires a process
that does just that, it only applies to "regular" students in the day
Now everything is "comments in the hallway" and no one will come to his
David says he does not intend to appeal, although he explains: "I have
not resigned formally because I still have time, but I lost interest
because, when I think of appealing to the Minister of Higher Education,
I wonder who this official answers to and it makes me feel like not even
starting the process."
To the question of what he intends to do with his life now, David
jokingly replies: "What I was doing: inventing," that is figuring out
some way to get by, "like all young people do in Cuba."
Source: The Student Who Did Not Want To 'Ride With Fidel' / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Excobar – Translating Cuba -