Former Cuban Literacy Teacher Griselda Aguilera Cabrera visited Questar III February 6 to share her experience as one of the youngest literacy teachers in Cuba. In 1961, revolutionary Cuba virtually ended adult illiteracy in one year. Hundreds of thousands of young people volunteered to teach others to read.

According to a UNESCO Report on the Cuban Literacy Campaign, as of the 1953 Census (the last prior to the revolution), nearly 25% of Cuba’s population was illiterate. By December 1961, Cuba was declared illiteracy free.

Griselda (L) hands a literacy certificate to one of her students in 1961.

Her story is one of a generation of young people, particularly women, whose lives were changed by helping to uplift the education of an entire nation. At only seven years old, Griselda volunteered to help make literacy universal in Cuba. “I taught literacy to a 58-year-old man, Carlos Perez Isla, who was a street cleaner and totally illiterate. This experience was seared into me with such force that it defined my future. From that moment, I decided to dedicate my life to teaching,” Griselda says.

After the literacy campaign ended and she finished her education, she became a teacher on the island nation. Since retiring, she works with the Cuban Psychology Society’s Working Group on Identity and Diversity to combat homophobia, racial discrimination, prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls.

District Superintendent Dr. Gladys I. Cruz visited Cuba last April to learn about the education system in that country. Read about her experience here.