Dr. Irene Queiro-Tajalli, Professor and Interim Executive Director of Labor Studies, IU School of Social Work, was a member of a research delegation of social work faculty from several US universities that recently traveled to Cuba.
The trip was sponsored by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and took place from June 2 to June 10, 2012. CSWE is a nonprofit national organization representing more than 2,500 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education.
The delegation stayed in Havana where all participants had the opportunity to meet with Sociology and Social Work faculty and alumni from the Universidad de La Havana. The faculty and alumni discussed the history of social work practice and education in Cuba within the socio-political context of the Cuban society. Furthermore, the CSWE delegation had the opportunity to meet twice and have extensive dialogues with the President of the Cuban Society of Social Workers in Health Care.
The delegation also visited a number of institutions including the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLASCO). There, the group had the opportunity to learn about the work of the institution and its research projects on contemporary Cuba. Another organization visited by the group was Temas Magazine where participants heard a detailed presentation on Cuban economics and social issues. Of great interest was the Research Center for Psychological and Sociological Research - Cuba (CIPS). The Center is an interdisciplinary research institution at the national and international levels. Created in 1983, it is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. It is one of the various CIPS existing in Latin America. The areas of research for this institution include studies on social structures and inequality; religion; labor issues; the family; and social participation to mention but a few.
Visits to community organizations included the Casa de la Cultural de Playa Municipal. This organization has a curriculum project, called Senior Adult University where older adults learn about the various aspects of the psycho-social aspects of aging. They are given a diploma at the end of the program and some of them start teaching other adults groups. Another visit was to the Casa Comunitaria Paulo Freire, part of the Martin Luther King Center, where the group met with the Casa director, the staff, all of which are from the community, and neighbors. The community center is located in a poor neighborhood and provides different services with a main goal of empowering the community. It is run by a small staff paid by the government and the rest of the help is provided by volunteers.
The delegation had a warm welcome at La Colmenita, (Beehive), an award winning children’s theatre group, where they had conversations with the theatre director and watched an outstanding performance. A one-day trip to the Las Terrazas community was an excellent example of community planning and organization. Located in the Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of the country, Las Terrazas is a rural community development program in an area known as Sierra del Rosario. This area was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The group also visited several museums and the historic old Havana as a group or individually. Dr. Queiro-Tajalli had a breath-taking visit to Museo de la Revolución - Museum of the Revolution, housed in what was the Presidential palace before the revolution. Most of the museum rooms are dedicated to the Cuban Revolution and its unsophisticated displays capture the essence of the Cuban revolution and the imagination of the visitors. Dr. Queiro-Tajalli said that it gave her the opportunity to see the human aspect of the revolution as it was unfolding and at its culmination with the defeat of President Fulgencio Batista by the forces of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Cien Fuegos, who then took control of Havana.