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Fabiola Santiago: Wait until students figure out that DeSantis’ Florida and communism are bedfellows!

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 5/12/2022 Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald
Florida governor Ron DeSantis is seen in attendance during the UFC 273 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 9, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. © James Gilbert/Getty Images North America/TNS Florida governor Ron DeSantis is seen in attendance during the UFC 273 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 9, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida.

What do Cuba and Florida have in common?

Book-banning, censorship — and, added into the mix this week, state-mandated school indoctrination for political purposes.

They’re hallmark practices of the Communist Party-led regime in Cuba, tools used for six decades to keep Cubans isolated and in the dark about information that falls outside of what the ruling party’s ideology commands people to believe.

Ironically, after this year’s GOP-dominated legislative session, the same manipulative tactics are now pillars of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ public education system.

Math textbooks and literary books are being banned because some comité a la Cuba — aka “Moms for Liberty,” made up of citizens jazzed and empowered by Republicans into a state of hysteria — deemed them inappropriate and sounded the alarm.

Educators are being censored and handed guidelines, embedded into law, about what they’re allowed to say and not say to students on race or gender identity. Nothing that makes whites uncomfortable. Nothing about being gay or trans in kindergarten to third grade when kids are full of questions about fellow classmates or themselves.

It all reminds me of the atmosphere of repression during my elementary school education in Cuba.

But self-awareness isn’t a Florida Republican attribute.

Mandated communism lesson

And so, DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have mandated, starting with the 2023 school year, that Florida’s middle-school students get an earful about the horrors of communism every Nov. 7, declared “Victims of Communism Day.”

Public school teachers in Florida will be required to dedicate at least 45 minutes of instruction that day to Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro. As well as to the “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence and suppression of speech” that people endured under their regimes.

Yet, these same students can’t be taught about the “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence and suppression of speech” to which Blacks have been — and still are — subjected to in this country.

But irony isn’t a concept Florida Republicans understand.

The “horrors of prejudice” lesson would fall under the banned “critical race theory.” A no-no to mothers like the one who got a book banned because it said that the United States has not eradicated poverty or racism.

Incredibly so, Cuba does exactly that, too.

The only allowed point of view is that the Cuban Revolution eradicated racism and that poverty is the fault of the U.S. embargo, not the failed economic system.

Cuban Americans and DeSantis

You would think that Cuban Americans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans would run as fast as they could from authoritarian DeSantis and oppose practices that should remind them of the repressive regimes they or their parents fled.

But no, the increasingly conservative Hispanics in the state have their blinders on because the right is their preferred side of the political spectrum. Hence, it’s okay for fascists to ban, censor and indoctrinate.

That these practices conspire against democratic principles is of no importance.

That they’re hypocritical, who cares?

The cancel culture Republicans were so dead-set against during the national reckoning with racial history after George Floyd’s murder has now become their prized turf — with Florida a leading stage for culture wars of the right.

Sadly so, Miami’s first-generation Cuban Americans in state office are the perfect fools in the endeavor to obfuscate.

It should worry Hispanics that DeSantis and the retrograde Republican Legislature are banning books, censoring schools and cracking down on businesses that don’t share their political opinion, plus demonizing only one ideology for crass political purposes.

If it crushing evil was the goal, they would also dedicate lessons to Nazism and the rise of right-wing paramilitary and hate groups in the nation, and specifically, Florida. But that’s too close to the base for comfort, isn’t it?

The right isn’t happy with sending their children to segregated, religious private schools and publicly-funded charters. They want to shape the rainbow of children enrolled in public schools in their 1950s image.

Just like Fidel Castro famously tried to build, from the cradle to the grave and using the education system and his propaganda apparatus, a new generation of suckers.

El nuevo hombre,” Castro called the generation of Communists being shaped.

What will we in Florida call the generation that DeSantis and his Cuban American Education Commissioner, former Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., are trying to indoctrinate?

Send suggestions, please.

There’s not a thing DeSantis can teach me about communism or any other kind of authoritarianism, including his. I know Cuba’s brand first-hand.

Unlike the ignorant, party-compliant 40-something, Miami-born, Cuban American legislators and lieutenant governor enabling DeSantis, I went to school in Cuba until the sixth grade. That, and 42 years of writing about Cuba and Cuban Americans, is why I easily recognize political chicanery.

My teacher mother refused to indoctrinate children and had to resign. It would be really something if the young teachers in my family had to do the same here because of the repressive atmosphere the GOP has brought to Florida classrooms.

But maybe there’s hope.

One fine day, a smart, fearless kid will raise her hand in the middle of the communism lesson and ask: “Isn’t that what Republicans do in Florida?”



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