"Bullying" in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on June 20, 2014
14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana | 20 June 2014 – Damaris is almost forty
and has several scars on her face. They were made by a 5th grade
classmate with a hair clip. They were in the middle of class and a
dispute over the ownership of a pen led the opponent to scream, "I'll be
waiting for you at four-thirty!" This is the worst threat a student can
receive in a Cuban elementary school. The phrase lets you know that when
school gets out strength and supremacy will be proved with fists or
For Yosniel it was worse. He jumped from a water tank at the People's
Republic of Romania High School, after months of ridicule about the size
of his head from his classmates in the dorm. He fell on concrete and no
effort at resuscitation was able to save him. The next day, during the
funeral, the very students who had ridiculed him offered their
condolences to the bereaved family in the impoverished Romerillo
However, the problem touches both the poor and the better-off. The cold
metal of a knife pierced the heart of Adrian, also a high school
boarding student, because another student, stronger than he, decided he
wanted his Converse sneakers. The parents of the dead boy were in the
military, but even so they could not understand how the schools that
were supposed to form the "New Man" could end up functioning with the
same bullying as in prisons.
Cecilia, meanwhile, was always one of the ones who hit… not one of those
who was hit. She would choose which uniform skirt she wanted, searching
the lockers of the weaker and smaller students. One day she met her
match in a skinny little gap-toothed girl who – with a knife improvised
from a hacksaw blade – slit her face from ear to ear.
Abuse at school, bullying, is an issue that is rarely discussed in the
national media, but it affects hundreds, even thousands, of students
across the country. Among the most alarming characteristics of this
problem is the complicity or indifference on the part of the teachers.
Often the teachers support "these tough guys and girls" in order to
control the rest of the students. The result is an institutional
validation of a structure of bravado and abuse.
How can it be reported? No one knows. There is no telephone number that
a student victim of bullying can call. There is no Ministry of Education
circular protecting the victims in these cases. The parents usually
respond to their children's complaints of abuse with "hit him harder" or
"show them who you are." The teachers don't want to get in the middle of
a dispute and many school directors respond defensively, "You can
imagine, I no longer know what to do with this boy."
The truth is that the drama of school abuse is not reported, debated,
questioned… meanwhile, the many Cecilias who are out there continue
taking smaller children's uniforms, cutting classmate's faces with a
blade, or mocking – to the point of suicide – the head size of another.
Source: "Bullying" in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba