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Church and Latin Culture a woman had no
way to prevent herself from getting
pregnant and no rights her husband or
father was bound to respect. Prosti-
tution flourished since it was one of
the few ways a woman by herself could
survive in the city.
Eleven years have passed since Fidel's
guerrillas chased Batista out of Cuba
and the Revolution is still reaching
some new people. An eighteen year old
woman we met on the Isle of Youth sud-
denly found herself one year ago in
school for the first time after 17 years
of helping her mother with the house-
hold chores. In the normal course of
things she would have gone on doing
chores at home until she married when
she'd settle down doing chores somewhere
eise. Instead there's a revolution in
Cuba and when she heard over the radio
about a free boarding school where she
could get an elementary education as well
as learn the operation of farm machinery
she went down to the radio station and
filled out an application. Soon she was care, and from the struggle in Vietnam
part of the vast young community on the

to problems of picking citrus fruits. Isle of Youth, experimenting with the

Larger units of the Federation organize abolition of money and the creation of

women's work brigades to combat on one Cuba's first really communist region.

front or another Cuba's number one probWhen we asked her how she felt about

lem: underdevelopment. leaving her home to drive tractors and read and write instead, she exclaimed,

From the first years of the Revolution, "You know I just couldn't go on like

many projects brought a new mobility and that!"

independence to Cuban women. In the anti

illiteracy campaign of 1961 thousands of Women's lives have been changing like

young women and men, most of them teenthat for a decade. Most women in Cuba

agers, left their parents' homes to live are now members of the Federation of

temporarily with illiterate families and Cuban Women, an organization founded

teach them to read and write. Catholic in 1950 to smash the old mold into which

parents in a society where prostitution wonen were forced. "A woman who spends

and gambling had been major industries all of her time taking care of her hus

feared the loss of their daughters' virhand and children is still a slavesays ginity and were unwilling to pe mit it. tlie Federation's regional director in

To calm everyone down, Fidel gave a reSunta Clara. In every Cuban neighbor

assuring speech guaranteeing proper behonu norun get together to discuss

havior. 1775 ra'ging from Jusc Marti to day

vitor's note: The Federation of Cuban Women is a mass-based organization of more than : 08,000 perbers, 10% of Cunan women between 15-65 years.

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The necessity for permanent military alertness put many women in the militia and the army The need for an educated work force created a scholarship program to cover all expenses, Women, seldom educated at all let alone at universities before the Revolution, have become half the student population. Many women are studying medicine, science, and engineering. Women belonging to the Young Compun ist Union or the Communist Party are especially mobile, studying one week in Havana, off to a work project in Oriente or Camaguey the next.

Work in voluntary agricultural brigades picking citrus fruit, tending coffee plants, and aiding in the sugar harvest has permitted komen to live in campamentos kith other women away from their families for months at a time. It was at first difficult for many Cuban men to accept the idea of their wives, sisters, and daughters going to school and going out to work, Plany objected vociferously, and attempts to order their women to stay at home were

not uncommon. But with the opening of education and work to women, the woman was not so totally dependent on the man in her life. For the first time a woman with an arbitrary, dogmatic husband could consider divorcing him. Cuban divorces soared as the Revolution progressed. Not because all husbands and wives were now incompatible, but because for the first time this became a possibility. As Celia, a Havana factory worker volunteering in the cane harvest explained, "Work for the Revolution is more important than my marriage." Will the family disappear as a result? Fidel says, "only love will hold the family of the future together." Over and over women described their excitement about being independent contributors to society. "Before the revolution, I had thirteen kids and had to remain at home," a mountain woman from Oriente explained to us. "Now I work in a cafeteria in the afte moon and study at night." Luisa and Angela, former housewives in their forties, are now nurses, They spoke enthusiastically of their busy schedule, adding that they volunteered as citrus fruit pickers on week ends. In their free time, they help the Federation recruit other women to work outside their homes, and as members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) they lead political education discussions. A Havana housewife, mother of two members of the Union of Young Communists, told us that at first she didn't understand the revolution. Now she is block chairman of the CDR and does volunteer work every afternoon making protective goggles for cane cutters, or assisting at the sugar mill. The energetic dedication of women like these has been crucial in Cuba's leap from underdevelopment. The mass freeing of women from the home for socially necessary lahor began the transition from a capitaiisr domestic econory in which each woman individually carried out the chores or child care,


washing. ..d cooking, to a sucia:is: one where society as a whole will take on these responsibilities. Centers for free daily or weekly child care, circulos infantiles. hinc beer ostablished all over the count?

tiese centers, children as young as tu? onths ire fid, clothed, educated and entertuin: 1. Schools, factories, and ex;'erimentill currinities offer free meals. Worconer, in a few communities and in all volunteer Campimentos free laundry services are non Taillc. ! ven though there are not yet unouch of these facilities, nearly every girl and woman he encountered was confident that circulos would soon be available for her children.

!espite the rat propres rack us i::co: norating som 'n into Cuban socieiy as cqua!s, contradictions, such as ite cotino existence of separate jobs foi men and women, remain. komen taithe circulos, for example, partly because are needed for heavy manual work. It also as a result of a strongly entrenched myth about a woman's innate ability to raise children. Cubans call it "rother love." Another example is the fact that women working the cane fields usually pile rather than cut cane -- includine the physically fit female athletes who won medals in the Central American Olynpics in Panama. A champion volleyball player told us that she had cut cane for a week but was not

liny women in the lonce remos Brigade here particul:rly interested in finding out to what extent horen in Cuba hare the freedom *Olve birth control and to obtain abortions. One of the three doctors in a rural hospi

Inte explained to us thul birth cen::o! diaphragris und 1.0.1).'s) as well

111 other forms of medical and dental Cure is not only available but free on de ind.

to craign arging woren to rise birth Lunt rol is wazed, however, because ouerpopulition is not a problem in Cuba; on the contrary they feel a population increase is necessary to yet the lemands of the developing economy.


bor ions are wailable on demand for women who get pregnant with an I.U.0). in place. Toncierin other cases it is often necessary for the woran to get permission from her hushand or father, for the man is still considered chiefly responsible for the chiltron. !! cases where there are special proilet and permission is not possible,

r.ssion re waived. Many Cubans think t!.ti (itions are hacalous to the rothor's

noters still regard abortions as

1111111111 Uhl.

TIC: Isill alsche interes

that it! Whildbirth isuNE! in the 11.3.) is the neri ; !imcil und pk : ! Cu! trun. with before the gran

will, if

as strong as the men and so decided to pile. A courageous exception are the three hundred for all macheters or the Tani!. Guerrillera Brigade. These housewives, stones and chan workers who wtedio work in the cifra (harvest, ignored to

en who told them that they were too het to cut. ihes bought mochas, ikin! macctc, and cut 1.1 Then the fieited us ur Internasion 1 Horl's !a tri h! ire?! sent million rrukas ut


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Even when women are trained for the same robs as men, old prejudices can prevent then doing exact iy the same tasks. We visited a military cane technology institute where the women did not stand

standart of a traditionally Latin Catholic machismo society persists. Like men everywhere, Cuban men maintain the social initiative. Many Cuban men told us, "Of course, neither a man nor a woman should be un faithful in a marriage, but if a man runs around it is understandable; if a woman does it, it is totally unacceptable.' Sex before marriage is the norm for men although discretion is necessary. The issue is more complicated for women, and attitudes are changing among the young students.


Mirta, an English student in Havana, said that she doesn't expect to have intercourse before she is married, but that some sexual contact before marriage is generally carried on. Sometimes students that plan to marry eventually have "intimate relations." Sexual activity is forbidden in some work camps and institutes but can be carried on in nearby towns. In vanguard work brigades such as the followers of Che and Camilo, even holding hands inside the camp is not allowed because the work and study schedule is so heavy. At certain times of the year people get only three hours of sleep a night.

Although proud of their new role in production, Cuban women feel it important not to lose their femininity. Women who picked citrus fruits in grey work clothes with rollers in their hair said, "At night and on weekends we get dressed up." However, many North American women felt that the beauty standards for hairdo's and makeup accepted by Cuban women as their own resemble those of Madison Avenue. Black women invariably straighten their hair. It should be pointed out that many African women do too and Cubans claim this is a trilt they brought with ther frun Africa. Ile lean, fair-skinned, and straight-haired rodels in the pages of Mujeres, rublished by the Tederation of Cuban Koren, sport logue fashions. Beauty, however, is not the capitalist industry it once was, since everyone can afford the hairdresser nowadays. In volunteer brigades the beautician, like clothes,

guard duty alone. When we asked why, a male guard replied, "A woman might get scared out here alone."

In matters of sex and morality the double

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