I had a neckerchief, so what?


In all the schools in the country, today is the ceremony for the first grade students to enroll in the Pioneer organization. The morning assembly lasts longer than usual, the parents accompany their children while they put on the neckerchiefs and shout, for the first time, the slogan, “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.” I also went through this on two occasions, once when I was enrolled in the OPJM* and the other on the day when I witnessed Teo being initiated. My recollections of the two are so different they seem to have occurred in diametrically opposite dimensions.

In my case it was the years of ideological fervor and, barely three feet tall, I was determined to give my life for the neckerchief they had just put on me. I felt touched by the hand of the Fatherland even though in reality I was only being added to the ranks of an ideology. The slogan of the organization I had just entered seemed like the magic words that would open all doors to me, though at that time I didn’t even know that the suffix “ism” forms nouns that mean “doctrine, sect, system.” Much less would I have wanted to be separated like Lybna who, because she was a Jehovah’s Witness, did not take “her vows” together with the rest of the children in the classroom. Around her hovered a cloud becoming darker, precisely because the blue cloth was not tied around her neck.

Twenty years passed and I was there with my son one morning in October to see him initiated into the Pioneer movement in which I no longer believed. The teacher walked up and down the ranks and asked the children to repeat the slogan about Che Guevara. Teo remained silent, with a pout that didn’t escape the eagle eyes of the principal. When they asked him why he didn’t say the slogan like the rest of the students he pointed out, with childish simplicity, “Because Che is dead and I don’t want to be dead.” I assumed my son was about to be entered into the ideological catalog under the worst of the letters, the “C” for counterrevolutionay. But no, the teacher laughed and gave him his first lesson in opportunism, “Ah Teo, repeat the slogan now, why make problems for yourself.”

*Jose Marti Pioneer Organization


37 thoughts on “I had a neckerchief, so what?

  1. This thing about che …
    It seems it polarizes every conversation, heats a debate and clouds the mind.
    Man is an individual, in my view the inner part of man does not change.
    What makes man is his/her ability to make choices.
    Forced disciplines & thoughts only pushes man to adapt without change.
    It seems to me all this things are only in the surface … deep inside … none of this “rulers” can tell what is going on.
    No one can see it or touch it, no one can repress it or kill it.
    For example: I can’t remember the name this woman, she fought against castro, her husband was captured & killed, she was incarcerated.
    She went insane while keept who knows where … yet she was never broken.
    To me … that is individuality.
    So che is interesting but not that important to me …

  2. Quisiera me informaran acerca de Tania Diaz Castro, Eduardo Padilla, Male-Cuza…
    para poder leer acerca de ellos…..Muchas gracias

  3. Senhores /as, sou amigo de Cuba de seu povo e da sua revolução faz muito tempo, é acompanhado suas agruras pelo criminoso bloqueio e pelo incessante ataque dos Estados Unidos, sejam por ataques econômicos, políticos, militares, biológicos, propagandísticos, de ingerência em seu próprio território e fora de ele também ( no caso dos 5 antiterroristas cubanos presos ilegalmente e injustamente).
    Do ponto de vista da solidariedade que este pais têm oferecido para o mundo nos últimos 50 anos, em vários continentes, levando o exemplo de integração, de oferecer o pouco que tem para formar médicos, educadores, desportistas: das camadas mais pobres e despossuídas dos países subdesenvolvidos ou não.
    Entristece-me profundamente que uma cidadã cubana presta-se para este trabalho sujo e que as forças conservadoras e reacionárias façam eco de semelhante patranha.
    Escrevi por varias vezes no blog de dita pessoa, porem todas as postagens foram retiradas, só deixando as que estão do lado dela. Por isso acabo de criar um blog com outro ponto de vista:



  4. I also had to wear the neckerchief even without the authorization from my parents, one day they did the ceremony and they put me that thing like a symbol( now you belong to the goverment)but my parents were very intelligent and they teach me all the truth about what was happening in Cuba, the brainwash didn’t work with me and my sister, in the first opportunity we have, we leave the country i was already married and have a daughter that thanks God i could raise here in this free country, she didn’t have to wear the neckerchief or do what the goverment wants the people do

  5. Sorry to post in English! What’s really funny about the Pioneers and the talk about Che Guevarra? What would he have said. He was born in one country, and he could have been happy and rich and powerful in that country if he had just gone along with the power. But he left and went to another country. He fought against the power for years and years and lived in the wilderness. He and the people he was with overthrew the government and established their own. The government they established was at least as injust and terrible as the one they overthrew. But he could have settled in and been a part of the government, and he chose not to in the end. He travelled to many other countries fighting for what he considered justice, and in the end he died in yet another country fighting in the wilderness for what he considered to be justice. In many ways he was wrong, the rest of Fidel’s band were wrong, and in any case it was time many years ago for this struggle to end and a new one to begin, but if somebody had told Che to just go along and repeat a meaningless slogan like this, his answer would probably have been unprintable in a blog such as this. It was during the Prague Spring in 1967 that I discovered the people fighting against communist power were pretty much the same as the people on my side who were fighting against our power.

    Also remember that if the ceremony was being held in Cuba, none of us in the United States would be able to come to see it either because we are subject to arrest for travelling to Cuba under the stupid embargo that is still being enforced under Obama. When Gorbachev started perestroika and glasnost I said we need some of that too. Now maybe we are getting it under Obama, although I am not holding my breath. We don’t even have decent health care yet, and the richness of this country is equalled by the poverty of this country, and it is not reasonable or necessary. We all need to live in a free and prosperous world, and this is possible. Keep up what you are doing. You are young and beautiful and intelligent.

  6. Pingback: Cuban Blogger Yaoni Sanchez - TeakDoor.com - The Thailand Forum

  7. Congratulations on your award from columbia. i wish you can come personaly to accept the award.keep up the good work you are doing. the word can not be silenced and its spreading to good people on consious.soon we will be celebrating in Havana.

  8. A drunk walked past a primary school at exactly the moment when the pioneers repeated the slogan:

    “Pioneers for communism!!!!!We Will be like Che”

    The drunk, totally surprised ask to himself:



  9. No freedom to read, write and express opinion in communist countries..?
    Is democracy contrary to communism?. Poor Cubans

  10. Can someone help me. I have written something that I shouldn’t have. Is there a way I can delete / amend my own entry?

    NOTE FROM ENGLISH TRANSLATOR: I see no other comments from your URL… if you point me to the comment you’d like to delete I will delete it for you.

  11. Americanworkmule:

    At least in Democracy people, organizations and communities don’t hide their shortcomings and issues. Instead, they discuss it freely and it gets published in the press.

    In the former worker’s paradise of USSR the greatest neighborhood mass murderer in recorded history was on the loose and went unreported until the fall of communism:


    In addition, as long as you bring up suicide, if you do your homework and research, you’ll find out that Cuba has the highest statistical suicide rate in Latin America, and the highest suicide rate by women in the world.

    Check out: http://www.fiu.edu/~fcf/openh71599.html

    And also check the UN statistics on suicide rates around the world. Just check facts, don’t just repeat what the Castro dynasty tells the population. You do live outside Cuba, don’t you? If so, lucky you. You’re privileged that you can go to the nearest free public library and inform yourself fully.

  12. Che’ Day. Kent state day, Ruby Ridge day, Waco day. u.s. is NEARING CHAOS , Carlos Rodrigues, A balsaro del norte, is dead at age 44 here in los cayos de Florida, they found him dead in a trailer on Big Pine, cause of death dehydration, alcoholism, always asking for work. and exclaiming Dis no Life! as he rode his bicycle around. Until his dyeing day he exclaimed the u.s. was the greatest country in the world. Hmm Makes me wonder.

  13. On December 1964, during a debate in the United Nations General Assembly where Guevara represented de Cuban government, this was severely attacked because of the firing squad executions without any judicial process and evidence as required by the rule of law. Guevara, in his own voiced, responded:

    “We must say here what is a known truth, which we have always expressed before the world: firing squad executions, yes, we have executed; we are executing and we will continue to execute as long as is necessary. Our struggle is a struggle to the death.”

    Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqAvuiyzz5k

  14. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » I had a neckerchief, so what? -- Topsy.com

  15. Yoanni your picture above is adorable. So relevant, and with a Monalisa like smile to boot. You are happy but not overjoyed.

    John Two:

    As far as I know, the Castros have not given permission for Yoanni to travel. Nor do I expect them to. They run the country like their personal family barn. They are now too busy celebrating their little pet projects such as sending Cuban medical personnel to Venezuela, which bring very little benefit to the Cuban population, but allow them to brag and gain favor with the simian president of Venezuelan.

  16. Sorry to stray off topic. Has anybody heard whether Yoani got permission to travel to New York to accept the Cabot Prize from Columbia University? I’m assuming not.

  17. Quiero comentar sobre el premio de la Pas que le otorgaron al presidente obama no sabia que se otorgaba por guataquería, pero estoy muy contenta que se lo dieran al Sr. presidente y no a la guerrillera asesina de pilar córdobas y lo digo porque todos los que ayuden las guerrillas que a matado y sigue matando para mi son tan asesinos como los guerrilleros sobre el nombre del premio donde hay Pas en el mundo que dios bendiga al mundo….mirtha

  18. Coronel Carbo Servia:

    Comment #1217 Spanish version.I’m sorry….. Yeah right soooo soorrryyyy….

  19. Captain Carbo Servia:

    Check comment 1212 in the Spanish version.I just followed you order to the “T”. I’m so SORRY

  20. The country I’m speaking of is USA , Uphs!!Sorry , My EGO…OK make me do it your way…Ok sorry ,I’m on my knees begging for forgiveness….

  21. In third sentence of post #13 I meant to say…The bottom line is that if people wants to be in the public life in the cibersapace or in real life they have to have a thick skin..But I won’t continue because I have been ordered by Carbo Servia to keep my EGO in check.And this debate is over.PERIOD. DONE .ZIIIIPPP!!
    Yes SIR!!…. OK, Make me.

    I have done nothing for this country, but this country has done a lot for me.
    This country expects me to be a good father and a good husband and in that task I have succeed by a mile and half..

  22. The way I approach this blog is, I always acknowledge the new post that Yoani inserts and comment on her very eloquent, and what I consider truthful observations of the situation on the island. From there, I may take off and present my own views on it, depending on the cord it strikes, on how any give event resembles and/or coincides with other historic or recent situations. My state of mind on any given day affects what I write and how I write it.

    I never try to engage in unrelated personal dialogues with others, and/or reveal irrelevant private information that does not contribute to the ultimate goal and objective of this blog. I do, and am willing to debate any position that I feel is either not accurate, unbalanced or philosophically off track with respect to whether or not it works in a forty four thousand square mile island, with eleven million people and limited resources.

    This is just the way I view and do things here. I’m not trying to impose my model on others, just thought I’d make my methodology transparent.

  23. Concubino, this blog and hundred of blogs more created with the only purpose of discredit and attack the new born cuban blogosphere are not just a question of mockery and private life…… you know very well that…… It is the desperate resource the tyranny test to divert the attention of the passive reader and catch the involuntary cooperation of the egocentric….. your case fits in the last classification.
    Mockery happens in this site and the spanish site too and it is not object of censorship. The only commenter that always is yelling about spanish site imaginary censorship are those that wants to work against the normal develop of the debate. Moderation of the spanish site is the best moderation we ever had since this blog started. This blog you call “he” is a group of people working coordinately with a well visible agenda and I am sure you know that but your enormous ego don’t let you recognize that and have you fast in a ridiculous attitude. Put aside all this nonsense, forget all bad feelings caused by this misunderstanding between you and the others commenter and come back to the activity you do best: To comment in english, to help Yoani show to the world the ugly side of the dictatorship. Stay visiting and commenting on any blog you want but don’t spent your time attacking other commenter, asking things to Yoani or the moderator that no one have the right to ask. You are one of the best english commenter and we are losing you because the “good work” of this f..king cyberbrigade.
    This is my last comment about this question. I do not want to serve as involuntary public relation to castro,s attacks on Yoani.

  24. Carbo Servia
    Read the whole blog.I like it. I followed it and write my comments in there. There is a lot of controversy about his blog. The bottom line is you one to be a public person in the ciberspace or in real life, you have to have a thick skin and be ready for the mockery. Saturday Night Live do it all the time.The “Cuban Leash is very provocative.However he has said that Yoani’s prose is excellent.He has valids points. He created his on blog because he was moderated to the extreme in the Spanish version of GY.
    People who does not want to be object of mockery should choose a private life.The LAWS of the USA protects the RIGHT of the people to be private.

    Take care (concubino1@gmail.com)……….. JUST KIDDING!!…….LMAO!

  25. Everything has become cheap politics.Even the Nobel Prize.
    The Nobel Prize was the ultimate achievement.A reward for a job well done
    The people who has won it has achieved something. They were problems solvers.They found solutions.
    Give a Prize to somebody who just talks about change and hope and actually has done nothing is an insult to the real Nobel Prizes winners in the past.
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez is probably scratching his head thinking about this one
    Andrei Sakharov and Teddy Roossevelt should be revolving in their graves in total disgust.

  26. Concubino, it could help you a lot too if you stop to apologize in the spanish site the blog created by the enemies of Yoani with the only intention of discredit her, you should stop asking Yoani to put a hyperlink in her blog to link it with this castro blog and you should also stop using this castro blog for attacking some commenter of the spanish site. You should put aside your ego and accept we all are here with the only purpose of helping Yoani with our testimonies and help the cuban people by denouncing castro’s criminal history ans castrism crimes on our people. Our task here should just be to serve as publicists of our people tragedy and make understand that bit of the uninformed world public opinion that visit this site sometimes the real process that take place in Cuba. I hope you understand that you attitude only harm you self and Yoani.

  27. Quote from Che Guevara: The Fish Die by the Mouth

    >Cuban schoolchildren begin their classes each day with the following slogan of indoctrination: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che.” They will be then the new men; fanatics, liars, assassins and failed men, reaching the total realization of being like Che. Hatred to the enemies of the revolution is inculcated to the children in scholastic age. This quote of José Martí condemns hatred: “The haters should be declared traitors to the Republic. Hatred does not construct”<

    A great article, very concise and at the same time comprehensive. A lot has been written about Che, but I hadn’t seen a compilation such complete and effective like this article.

    Link: http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y09/enero09/23_O_3.html

  28. ok Cold I will follow your advise. Yoani published her email,so is Claudia, Miriam, reinaldo, I exchange emails with the English translator of this site, I don’t know why people wll come such absurdity

  29. ok Cold I will follow your advise. Yoani publidhed her email,so is Claudia Miriam, reinaldo, I excang emails with the English translator of this site, I don’t know why people wll come such absurdity.

  30. Concubino my cybernetic friend:

    If you stop trying to contact people on line or get their email or personal information, it may eliminate any suspicion by others on this blog. Also, I want to point out the following pertaining to Obama, whom I think scares the intestinal fauna out of the dynasty by offering to trade freely:

    I actually did not vote for Obama as I thought he had no experience, but there is one thing he has done for the country that the world that our grandchildren will be thankful for: He has overturned the nasty, (and I’d say almost treasonous) habit some corporations and government institutions had of compromising national security by planning to continue polluting the planet more than any other country in existence forever into the future. Already, China and India, the most populous countries in the world with the potential to turn us all into fossilized dinosaurs within a couple of hundred years through global warming, have agreed to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and limit their carbon footprint.

    To me that alone is a giant step towards saving and benefiting the country and the planet. What he did is to hit a flock of birds with one stone. Some of the benefits are as follows:

    – Oil producing countries won’t get as much of our money since we’ll be more energy independent
    – The terrorists therefore won’t have money to make trouble
    – There will be more work for American workers since solar, wind, nuclear, and other sources of energy will be home grown
    – The natural beauty of the country and its public parks, will be saved for our grandchildren in perpetuity
    – The danger that water, air and soil will be toxic will be reduced or eliminated, therefore improving our health

    Now if the above is not a grand slam accomplishment, I don’t know what is.

  31. It’s fascinating how dictators always wrap themselves in the country’s flags, as if to make themselves the holy impersonation of the fatherland, the high mystic priests so to speak. Except that they can’t even manage to predict the seasons to get good harvests and put food on people’s tables. The ancient priests were arguably better at it. What narcissistic arrogance!! This personality trait, combined with ignorance or denial of basic scientific and economic facts makes for a tragedy for Cubans trapped in the island.

    However, let the dynasty not forget what happened to Nicolaus Ceaucescu, Sadam Hussein, and Benito Mussolini. Where the people of those countries now hate their dead guts to no end, and don’t even want their bones, or their family and relatives buried in their land, let alone see any standing monuments or likeness of them.

  32. ***
    Hitler used kids also–to get them ready to be mindless soldiers to kill in war. The communists do this also. Yoani is “smarter than the average bear”.
    Hitler uso ninos tambien–para alistarles ser soldados sin mente para matar en la guerra. Las communistas hagan eso tambien. Yoani es “mas listo que el oso regular”.
    John Bibb

  33. The English version Of GY has been down where I live for almost a week. I don’t know why.
    I haven’t be able to comment here. Today thankfully the site has been restablihed.

    There is a lot going on in Spanish site, where I commenet quite often. However a a few commentators think that they have the only truth about Cuba.Therefore they are the ones who have the only answers. When in reality the author of this blog just want for Cubans all the liberties that we as Americans enjoy.

    Yoani advocates for Cuba where everybody in included. She wants a plural Society.

    Her Spanish version of the blog has been moderated to almost censorship. It is my firm believe that since she posts “blind”.( The plataform of this blog is based in Germany),she has no control of the moderation.So somebody is doing that for her.
    By doing so, some of the moderators are doing wrong to this brave blogger. They are not true advocators for Yoani. They are just advocating for themselves.

    So to clear my name here is one more time what I truly believe

Comments are closed.