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Cuba has a total population of almost 11, 225,000 people. Youth, 0-14 years of age, comprise 20.6% of the Cuban population (males 1,188,125; females 1,125,743 estimated in 2002).

Youth in Cuba have grown up learning English today instead of the mandatory Russian during the Cold War. A statue of John Lennon in Havana reminds the Youth of Cuba of modern music and the global community of the Young who, in each generation, question current society values and programs. Access to the Internet and the global community is very much at the top of the minds of Cuban youth today. USA branded clothes are in great demand by Cuban youth much to the dismay of PCC leaders. One daring young Cuban male sailed his "windsurfing" board from Cuba to the Florida Keys in 1999 to escape Cuba and begin a new, more free life. The following article summary findings provide insight into Cuba's dilemma today with its Youth.

YOUTH CULTURE IN POST-SOVIET CUBA
Wayne S. Wooden, Ph.D..
California State Polytechnic University
Pomona, California

"Increasingly, the people of Cuba are beginning to express the view that true positive change in Cuba will only be accomplished once Fidel Castro leaves power. Others feel the U.S. needs to lift the embargo entirely to ease the country’s woes.

Cuba needs to continue its cautious experimentation with the market economy without compromising its relatively high standard of living for a Latin American nation and its social and political values. However, like its adversary to the north, Cuba has stubbornly chosen not to. The disenchantment expressed by many youth with socialist ideology is a reflection of the individualistic tones of a creeping external market force and consumer culture that has and will continue to affix itself onto the Cuban experience. Understandably, this sparks fear of impending doom for the socialist-committed government who has, since the revolution, depended on a socialization of its youth based on nationalism and a collective need, rather than that of individual desire and consumer ethos.

Criticism by many of today’s Cuban youth is being expressed through music and culture that not only introduce unorthodox Cuban identities, but reflect the need for change in Cuba as well. Cuban youth, as we have noted, have been quick to recognize how their country is being transformed once again. Examples of this -- especially within the Afro-Cuban youth experience, whom seem to have bore the brunt of the crises -- is the emergence of a Rap and Hip Hop music style in Cuba. This movement has had such momentum that several domestic rap groups are performing at such events as the sixth annual Rap Festival in Havana (Sokol, 2000). Along for the ride are thousands of young Cubans who have adopted this musical style that allows for a more self and social expression through lyrics than the typical Cuban salsa or son can convey through its less socially-aware and more carefree nature.

After the hardship and adjustments they have been forced to make, Rap savvy youth are taking to something uniquely theirs. Rap music is becoming one outlet for the frustration and anxiety that has fermented throughout the past decade. The primarily Afro-Cuban makeup of this rap youth culture also reflects a recognition of a re-emergence of racial inequity among groups, at least as seen through the eyes of black Cuban youth.

Recapturing the allegiance of Cuba’s troubled and disenchanted youth, then, will ultimately require some form of inclusion. Cuba’s youth need a purpose, to be valued as essential participants in their country’s developments. Like the vanguards of the revolutionary era and youth of the prosperity era, the new pessimistic and anti-revolutionary youth of this Special Period must be included in the debate over their homeland’s and their own personal futures.

If the revolution is to live on in the hearts and minds of these youth -- or if a shift to a more capitalistic-style state is to eventually reemerge -- government leaders must not lose sight of these post-Soviet youths’ needs and concerns. To ignore their discontent may run the risk of losing them altogether, and this Fidel Castro can ill afford. Cuba’s future, after all, will someday rest in their hands."

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