Today’s La Vida En Black History Month message comes from Cuba and is about a woman who as a teenage girl, helped a revolution teach her entire nation to read. Norma Guillard is a Social Psychologist and a former brigadista with the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign or La Campaña Nacional de Alfabetizaciòn.
I am proud to say my friend, NORMA GUILLARD was just 15 years old in 1961, living in Havana when she joined the national campaign that would change the course of her life forever.
The Cuban literacy campaign took 250,000 young volunteers from the city (Habana) and sent them out to the countryside to live with families to teach them how to read and write. In the end they taught over 700,000 people to read and write in one year. 100,000 of the teachers were under 18 years old. Over half were women. One of them was Norma Guillard.
I met Norma when I was promoting the award winning film about this tremendous time in Cuba’s history… MAESTRA is a 33-minute documentary that features as one of its central characters, La Maestra, Norma Guillard.
At the UN General Assembly in September of 1960, Cuba announced that they would eradicate illiteracy in one year. They launched a massive national media campaign and over 250,000 Cubans volunteered. It was the “most important time in my life” Norma explained. She was a courageous young woman who teamed with thousands of Cuban teenagers to teach their own people to read and truly changed the world.
Facing a bevy of dangers, Norma stayed in the community where she was teaching, and completed the year-long course. In the end the Campaign was enormously successful raising Cuba’s literacy rate to 95 percent in 1962 and then maintaining literacy at 98 percent to this day.
Today, Guillard is a social psychologist. She was one of the first Cuban women of her generation to call herself a Feminists and works on issues of gender, race, sexual orientation in Cuba. Guillard has contributes regularly to the discourse on race and racism in Cuba.
An adjunct professor at the University of Havana teaching psychology and gender, she is also one of the past presidents of the Cuban Association of Psychologists. Norma Guillard is also an advisor to United Nations Development Program and UNESCO on gender and HIV/AIDS prevention. She is a principal collaborator at the National Center for the AIDS Prevention and the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), which spearheads work to educate against homophobia and lobby for civil unions in Cuba.
She is an avid speaker at conferences, educational, social and cultural forums worldwide. Norma currently collaborates with CENESEX championing the rights of LGBT Cubans. And Norma Guillard is La Vida En Black History continuing to teach and expand the breath of knowledge about Afro-Latinos throughout the world.