The award-winning “Maestra,” a documentary that took eight years to make, featured a national campaign of bridging a divide over literacy.
Fifty-eight years ago, Cuba made the attempt of mending its educational fences to become fully literate.
A recent screening of “Maestra,” based on a nationwide 1961 literacy campaign in Cuba, was presented by Alberto and Silvia Jones for members and friends of the African American Cultural Society. It also introduced the filmmaker, Catherine Murphy.
Jones serves as president of the Caribbean-American Children’s Foundation, engaging in programs involving the Caribbean and Cuba.
Murphy, who grew up in Stanford, California, earned a master’s degree in sociology from the Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales in Havana. She was influenced by both her grandmother and great-aunt, who had once lived in Cuba.
Alice Walker narrates
A U.S. filmmaker, activist and educator, Murphy founded the Literary Project in 2004, examining the issues of literacy and illiteracy and, consequently, reeling in women who had volunteered as literary teachers, so that every person could learn to read and write through the Cuban Literacy Campaign.
The film, narrated by Pulitzer-Prizewinning author Alice Walker, was featured at a plethora of festivals – the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, New Orleans African Film & Arts Festival, Raindance Film Festival, London; Festival de Cine Cubano in Florence, Italy; Havana Film Festival in New York, Muestra Itinerante de Cine del Caribe (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Costa Rica, Aruba, and Panama), among other cinema festivals.
It’s a film distribution by Women Make Movies.
The 33-minute, English-subtitle film – produced by Murphy in 2012 – “highlights the experiences of some of the youngest women teachers from Cuba, when in 1961, they carried out the national campaign with the goal of achieving full literacy,’’ Murphy said.
“So, 58 years ago, the island nation of Cuba attempted to become fully literate, and set out on this journey, giving the opportunity, to those who had not had the chance to go to school, to learn to read and write,” she added.
The open call for volunteer teachers was met by a quarter-million people, many of whom were junior high and high school students, dedicating a year of their lives to live with and teach the countryside families, despite the sounding of the alarm that armed insurgents were roaming the countryside during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Jones thanked Murphy for making a stop and sharing her work with the audience. He said he tells his audiences that the film shows “how Cuba was able to achieve the level of education that it has today.
“It was the most impressive time in the nation’s history,” he stated.
And with that basic education, the Cuban government made a push for these people to continue their education and, in the long haul, to provide them with free education to the university.
As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.
Birthday wishes to Ruthie Saunders, Stanley Henderson, March 14; Ron Ambrose, March 16; Maxine Hicks, Devin Price, Patrice Henderson, March 17; Myles Baker, March 18; and Reggie Pincham, March 19.