Young people play a defining role in understanding the present and anticipating the future in every context. Their demands reflect the matters pending on a country’s agenda, so every approach to their reality becomes an opportunity to undertake changes consistent with the needs of the new times.
Cuban youth: on your mark, get set… provides in two different formats the chance to hold an unbiased, clear, candid and topical conversation. It is about an experience of exchange that uses social research tools to produce results and capture them in a book and a multimedia material. Its title places the characters at the starting blocks, as befits the invitation to make the most of the here and now to engage in participatory and transformative action. Its authors, all professors of the School of Psychology of the University of Havana, are Consuelo Martín Fernández, Jorge Enrique Torralbas and Jany Barcenas Alfonso.
For six hours, a group of young people, together with the three facilitators and a technical crew, found a space to talk about identities, participation, leadership, social project, institutionality and future. Their input transcends immediacy, as it suggests alternative forms of reaching young people. This time the hypotheses build not on what is representative, but on the interpretation of collectively generated symbolism.
Those who only look at figures could argue that the conclusions this material are hardly far-reaching. However, other research works have already provided figures, whereas this one relies on its methodological proposal to let us get inside the ways that groups of young people use to explain them with their own language and from their own standpoint.
The book entailed an organized systemization of events through a consistent and sincere analysis for readers prepared to face facts that barely accommodate to the context and place where they exist. Three critical interpretations made at the end by the social scientists Daybel Pañellas Álvarez, Teresa Viera Hernández and Carolina García serve as a very relevant complement to the theoretical-methodological thoroughness that characterizes this work. They join the proposed dialogue among science, society and youth with different viewpoints that enrich the outcome.
The multimedia material provides an audiovisual support that highlights the team’s honesty in presenting the results. Again, giving a face to the voices of those who participated challenges any set of numbers. The differences in aesthetics, consumption and language explain the presupposed heterogeneity in a much better way than any socio-demographic data. Cameras and microphones break the myth that anonymity must prevail in a discussion about these issues and confirm the value of giving dialogue a chance within a same generation whose great diversity makes finding a common ground difficult.
Likewise, the video recording proves that it is possible to combine joy and rigor in a debate about fundamental topics. Building something from pleasure and well-being can be the distinctive feature of young people who coordinate their efforts for transformation.
Although these materials complement each other, they are not interdependent. They can be enjoyed separately, and both meet their goal regardless of the language that they use for that purpose. In the same manner, their order of consultation is a matter of consumer choice or possibility: the multimedia material portrays the experience as was while the book explains and analyzes it from the standpoint of those who lived through it and experts’ comments.
In the introduction, the authors point out: “The text of this book recounts and discusses the experience of its protagonists to share and rescue it from oblivion”. It is a very outstanding fact that this product was made in the year 2019, when the young people who have a voice in it had not yet seen the profound changes of later years. We are presented here with a country before COVID-19, social distancing, facemasks, mobile data and the explosive access to the social networks. Where our current Constitution was a proposal being discussed by the population and is now fully approved; and where the social and political context was quite different: Cuba before the economic reorganization and the events of July 11, to mention just a few episodes that changed the national and international scenario in the last few years.
Nevertheless, the introduction to this book can be useful for any analysis of the subjectivity currently emerging amidst today’s youth. The self-defining elements, degree of engagement and intergenerational dialogues addressed herein have found room in the new context. Understanding the rifts and confluences existing between these stages is a necessary exercise to anticipate future circumstances and undertake the required transformations. That is the reason that the currency of this material also lies in the validity of a theoretical-methodological strategy that is relevant and effective, considering the goals that the authors set themselves.
Cuban youth: on your mark, get set… is an excellent material that gets around the challenges of its context and time to be consistent with its main purpose: how to be “useful in the times of change that Cuban society is going through”.
Traductor: Jesus Bran