Cubas literacy method high in the Andes
In reality, what he had was a piece of paper that said, "My name is Jose and I am a slave."
"I asked the man at the bank why he laughed and he answered, "The person who sent you here has made fun of you," recalls Jose, who turned around and left for home embarrassed.
Surrounded by notebooks and in front of a television broadcasting the second part of the Yes, I Can literacy program, equivalent to 3rd and 4th grades, the 34-year-old man optimistically assures, "Now things are different; the people know that they cannot be cheated if they learn how to read."
The Granma visit is to a classroom in the Mucuchies plateau, 3,200 meters above sea level, the highest inhabited community in Venezuela.
The cold air coming from Aguila Peak burns the cheeks and noses of the residents of these lands. The lack of oxygen makes them walk slowly to avoid "altitude sickness" which is believed to be the slowest death known to humanity. It is said to sink you, without realizing it, into a dreamland of the heights.
For many Andean people, there is no other way of life. Here they learn to fight the cold and work the land under blizzards. They are happy planting carrots and garlic, the two crops that survive the frost.
Victims of abandonment and a terrible social exclusion for a long time, the residents say things have changed with the coming of the different programs of the Chavez government.
Dozens of health, education and sports professionals from Cuba have arrived to this remote area where the annual average temperature is 6 degrees Celsius.
Coming to work in the highlands is doubly difficult because of the change of air pressure that can cause nausea, make it hard to breath and in some cases shoot up ones hemoglobin count. For that reason, Alfredo Armas, of Villa Clara, says it is essential to get periodic checkups to identify any health problems. The 54-year-old Cuban is working in the literacy program.
"At first it was a little hard. There are 68 communities with difficult access and some, like the Arangures parish, can only be reached on foot. The trip takes six hours," explained Armas.
That is the great contradiction inherited from the past governments. Sixty kilometers from here is the city of Merida, a university town where everything revolves around the huge University of the Andes.
Thousands of young people from around the country come to study in Merida, motivated by the universitys prestige. Nonetheless, in this southwestern Venezuelan state, one in every ten inhabitants cannot read or write.
The worst statistics are in the highlands sector, due to the climate and the terrain. "Before, more than half of the population lacked medical attention and in some sectors people had never visited a doctor," said Alexander Quintero, the mayor of the municipality.
Source: By Ronald Suárez and Alberto Borrego Ávila, Granma