When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1960, he issued a bold literacy initiative – everyone in the country would learn to read and write in one year. The government recruited more than 250,000 volunteers (most of them between the ages of 10 – 19!) to travel throughout the country and educate all. This novel tells the story of Lora, a fictionalized character based on the true stories of many young Cubans who volunteered. Like Arturo, Lora gleaned inspiration from the impassioned poems of Jose Marti’ and from her Abuela who supported her desire to make a change in the world.
This was a piece of history of which I was completely unaware … one of my favorite things to read! The story is so powerful. Lora, like many, traveled far from her home for the very first time, to live in a remote area with no modern conveniences. I loved how the volunteers were trained to come with humility, ready to work alongside their students to gain their trust and respect. And, what a joy to read of the farmer who had no education and could only sign his name with an’ X’, but worked so hard to learn to read and write so he could soon proudly sign his full name! Castro was a ruthless dictator, yet his literacy imitative greatly impacted the Cuban country which still has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. This is an unforgettable story of the power of education, courage, and service.