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Reading habits in Cuba and Mexico

Linda Nyquist is angry about people who are unwilling to give Castro credit for anything:

"While WAISers are going on and on about banned or unbanned books in Cuba, I wonder if anyone has considered the issue of books in other Latin American countries, such as Mexico. Frankly, it doesn't much matter whether or not books are banned for the general public in Mexico. Most of the population can't afford any books. Period. The homes I go into on a regular basis have NO books, and I do mean NO BOOKS. Not even one. When there is money to spend on something to read, it is generally on a paper novela; one of those trashy, stupid tomes available on newsstands which aren't even as good as quality comic books, in my opinion. The reading level of the general public is so low that even if books were cheap enough to buy and obtain, they probably wouldn't get them.

Now, to the subject of public libraries. I was shocked during a recent trip to Oaxaca to discover that there is no system of "open stacks." You walk in and have to use a terribly inadequate card catalogue and somehow divine what you want and ask for it. It doesn't need pointing out that most people aren't going to know what they want without seeing it, or being able to browse among the books. The public library seemed woefully inadequate and understaffed. So I did a little personal polling of about 50 students. OK - I know this isn't scientific, but I just wanted to see how these students used the library. Not one, not one single student had used the library. Not one student knew how to use the library. These were public school high school students.

Now doesn't this tell you something about the difference between this and Cuba? Apparently Fidel, for all his flaws, has people reading at a level where they might WANT books. The students I talked to in Oaxaca watched television. Not one had read any of the classics I mentioned. And I named some important ones in Spanish literature (Cervantes, etc.). I asked about some Mexican authors, such as Azuela, Juan Rulfo, etc. They didn't know about whom I was talking. They ALL knew about Titanic, the movie. And the mask from a movie called, I believe, "The Scream" (or something like that). Is this beyond depressing???

Is anyone ever going to credit Fidel with not only increasing literacy, but with the kinds of things that people seem to want to read? If they are asking for political literature instead of comic books and stupid fotonovelas, I am personally gratified".

My comment: As far as TV is concerned, the US and most countries are competing in a rush to the bottom. As for the reading habits of young Americans...

Ronald Hilton - 3/18/02