Tarará was one of the great experiments of the revolution destined to attract and form loyal followers from a younger age. Conceived as a sort of resort-town school, it welcomed primary school children from the City of Havana, who boarded for two weeks, alternating classes and leisure time, in the company of their teachers and some of the mothers called “fighters for education” who helped out with their care. Different schools rotated their stay in the famed “camp”, in fact, a development with houses equipped to host their guests in acceptable comfort, with blocs of classrooms to conduct the program of classes. Almost every pioneer enrolled in primary education during the 80’s decade was housed at Tarará at some time.
Despite the forced separation from families, it is fair to acknowledge that, at least, the pioneer city “José Martí”–here, the Apostle’s name has always been used for anything–offered the children leisure and entertainment, decent food and security. There was the beach, the cable car, the amusement park and sports areas. The facilities also included specialized staff: lifeguards, guides, cooks and assistants, among others. During the holiday period, Tarará, the name by which it has definitely always been known, was also visited by pioneers from other provinces.
Until the Chernobyl disaster happened and the Cuban government spotted a golden opportunity to politick with a cover-up of political humanism, redirecting the Pioneer Cuban children’s resort to the children of that unfortunate city affected by radiation from the nuclear plant. Since nothing is random, authorities were starting to see the coming crisis that would result from the collapse of the great step-mother (USSR), and were scrambling to show the world the “small nation’s” disinterest and altruism, now not only under siege by the common enemy of people–imperialism–but threatened by the eminence of the greatest economic collapse in its history. So, it was thus that some years after its ostentatious inauguration, Cuban children were stripped of their famous resort, without ever having another one assigned to them, not even a more modest one. Very many of those children who went through Tarará as pioneers are already parents themselves, many hotels and shops in foreign currencies have been fixed since then, but there never seems to be enough capital to devote effectively to the healthy enjoyment of children. While they grabbed away the children’s space, officials of the Communist Party, for example, continued to enjoy vacation plans, such as their “little hotel” in Pinar del Río, even during the 90’s in which the crisis led widespread poverty to its climax.
And since apparently children are the hope of the world only in stories of La Edad de Oro (Golden Age books), now Tarará isn’t Chernobyl’s children’s destination either, but the destination of young Chinese students who come to the island to learn the Spanish language. True, there are also spaces for foreign tourism, including a marina, and some anointed ones also live there. Anyway, when a few days ago I went by the road that crosses in front of the main entrance building, I could but smile: there is a huge image over the front of the building of the patriarch during his years as a Sierra Maestra guerrilla in uniform, backpack and rifle; a well-known national obedience slogan (“Commander in Chief, command”) reinforces the message. Very near there, possibly unaware of the history of the site that gives them shelter, a number of Chinese youngsters play basketball. And the Cuban children? Fine, thanks.