Margarita Alarcón Perea
Avocados are a delicious and nutritious food, commonly consumed in Latin America and the rest of the world. For some it is a vegetable and for others a fruit. Because of this particular characteristic, for some Cubans when an individual or a specific thing doesn’t quite fit into a certain genre it is also known as an “avocado”. This is my case. I belong to a particular group of people known as “avocados”, we belong neither here nor there but somehow we manage to co-exist.
When I was contemplating higher education I filled out a form customary in those years for high school graduates in Cuba, whereby we would jot down in order of preference what it was that we hoping to matriculate in college. On my list of 10 possible aspirations, I wrote down, industrial design, architecture, law, medicine, biology and another five I really don’t remember now. After a lot of time spent in the University (Cuba, East Germany, Cuba, and more Cuba) I finally graduated ten years later as an English major. Language majors or philologists in any language are what are known as an “avocado” by my peers. Our greatest weakness becomes in the end our greatest strength; we know a bit about everything and not all that much about any one topic in particular, but we can function in practically any field of the working world.
Thanks to this, one of the things I have had the possibility of doing is teaching and it has been a joy to this day. During my years at Casa de las Americas, said cultural institution began organizing academic courses for college students from the United States interested in Latin America and Cuba. It was because of this that I have had the opportunity since the year 2000 to lecture (for lack of a better word) to students from many schools of excellence from the US. One of these has been UC Davis.
For anyone with a teaching carrier behind them, it is an accepted maxim that we as teachers tend to forget the run of the mill students and will always remember the worst and the best. UC Davis has never been run of the mill. The students that go to Davis tend to be both the best and the worst as far as a teacher is concerned. They are inquisitive and attentive. They challenge the person standing at the helm of the class room. In short, they are a delight, at least the members of the groups that I have had the opportunity to work with since the year 2000 up until 2009. I seriously doubt that those that are on campus now are any different.
California has a grand history with its student movement going back to Berkeley in the 60´s. When I was there during my last trip to the US I remember you could feel the energy that was still alive. What has happened over the weekend at UC Davis unfortunately reminded me of the history of Berkeley and other Universities in the US during the protest movement against the Viet Nam war and in favor of the Civil Rights movement. Students are by nature, the way they should be, rebellious, they are the final stage of ground-breaking spunk that we all have before we become content and accepting of what we have left in our lives. I think it is in part because of this that I spent a decade in college; I simply didn’t want to stop being an adolescent.
The students over at Davis probably have a lot to learn about how to proceed in the future and how to express their desires and demands, but one thing I am certain of is that pepper spraying them using brutal force is not the way to help them grow. They are part of the future of their country and if they have made mistakes, and if they have not abided by the rules the way they are expected to then maybe the rules should be double checked and maybe what some consider mistakes are simply a reaction to actions that are being taken or not being taken in order to help them secure the future for themselves.