Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Ana Echegoyen, literacy teacher in Cuba and sentenced to anonymity

Among those excluded from the rule imposed in 1961 “Within the revolution everything, outside the revolution nothing”, Ana Echegoyen Montalvo (1901-1970)also known as Ana Echegoyen de Cañizares, constitutes an absurd and paradigmatic case, among other reasons: 1) of being the first non-white woman-in an environment characterized by racial prejudices-to come on occupies the Chair of Pedagogical Methodology at the Faculty of Education of the University of Havana, and 2) by manages a project to eradicate illiteracy in Cubaantecedent of the Literacy Campaign of 1961. Submitted anonymously, Echegoyen is a prominent educational personality, a normal school teacher, researcher, doctor of pedagogy, and feminist activist,

In 1941 he visited the United States to understand how illiteracy among the youth and adults was eradicated there. In an interview about this visit, he expressed the strong impression that the treatment he received in the southern states of the United States was done to him as a result of his African descent and meeting people who were similar to him in important positions in that country.

From the Secretariat of the Teaching Reorganization Commission, in the Chair of Pedagogical Methodology, Echegoyen promoted various improvement courses for teachers and wrote several texts: Didactic Guide to the New School (in collaboration with Alfredo Miguel Aguayo), Cworkbook for Observation practice in Pedagogical Methodology, First book to read for adults, The continent of hope, and the five booklets of the Regional Cooperation Center for Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CREFAL), in collaboration with the Mexican Jesús Isáis Reyes, (based on Echegoyen’s ideophonic method). For this work, he was appointed in the 1950s as a specialist in Adult Education for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Echegoyen’s job goes beyond teaching. For Luis Javier Pentón (Dr. Ana Echegoyen de Cañizares: leader of the 1956 literacy campaign in Cuba) He is a pedagogue as much as a social leader.. Her work as president of the Women’s Cultural Association reflected the potential of Afro-Cuban women to overcome the racial and gender barriers that dominate Cuba.

The literacy campaign of 1956

Various civic associations, and public and private organizations—the University of Havana, the Federation of Private Schools, UNESCO, and the Cuban Press Bloc— They worked together to prepare the literacy campaign in 1956. At the end of 1955, literacy teachers were registered and the course “Literacy and its problems” was taught, and from March 1956 to February 1957 pamphlets were printed and the campaign was distributed. The initial plan was to teach 10,000 adults to read and write, but due to financial reasons, only 5,000 will be involved. This project paved the way to eradicate illiteracy without paralyzing other teaching activities, as happened in 1961.

Primary literacy Teach to read —based on Echegoyen’s ideophonic method and prepared by him—to encourage literacy teachers, he argues the following: “Eliminating illiteracy should be a matter of honor for every Cuban who loves his country. teaching those who do not know, is the most beautiful work that can be done for the growth of the land where we were born”. He was not the first to design a reading primer, but he was the first to create a reading and writing program that included a primer and a manual for teachers.

Starting with the principle that adults should learn to read and write in the same way as children, the campaign’s research aims to validate or disprove it. To do this, Echegoyen conducted a study whose results revealed that the assumption was wrong: adults learn differently because they create “resistance to the memorization of phrases and sentences included in the reading unit.” These conclusions led him to a series of reflections to improve future literacy campaigns. Despite the lack of ideophonic principles for adults, his method shows a civic-educational message so that literacy ends with social work.

At the end of the campaign, Echegoyen wrote a report for UNESCOdubbed Reading practices of Cuban adults. Adult and youth education which sets research guidelines on methods and concepts of literacy among adolescents and adults in Latin America and the world.

The literacy campaign of 1961

Beyond the efforts and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Cubans to teach reading and writing, The 1961 campaign was the first step in the development of civic illiteracy. The booklet and manual used form two instruments of ideological indoctrination.

The booklet has 14 topics, starting with the Organization of American States (OAS), whose first exercise is to find the vowels O, E, and A in the words Cuba, Camilo, Fidel, and Raúl. Some of the remaining thirteen are: “Agrarian reform was born in the Sierra”, “Agrarian reform gave land to farmers”, “Farmers now own the land”, “Fishermen now live which is better”, “The farmer buys. good and cheap in the town store”, “There are no huts or lots in the coming years”, “We won all the wars led by Fidel”, “What do we have read? Homeland or Death! We will win.” Of José Martí, the main political figure in our history—with advanced pedagogical thinking, as if not enough, and many texts full of universal teachings—only one photo appears in the last pages with a poem by Nicolás Guillén closing. with the verse “Fidel came and fulfilled Martí’s promise.”

For his part, the Reading Manual is a technical and policy guide of 24 songs, among them: “The Revolution”, “Fidel is our Leader”, “The Land is Ours”, “Imperialism”, “The Revolution has Won all Wars”, and “The Havana Declaration”.

The didactic and methodological similarities between the texts used in the two campaigns (1956 and 1961) show – although there was an evolution of the didactic model used by Echegoyen – that some parts of the first lasted in the second: the booklets for students and the manual for the literacy teacher (analog methods), as well as the structure of teaching reading and writing. The differences between the two are in the goals and results: in 1956 emphasizes moral and civic knowledge as tools for the development of the individual and the society; that in 1961, the conversion of the citizens into a member of the totalitarian State.


The revolutionary government, upon taking power in 1959, offered Echegoyen the position of Minister of Education. He did not accept it: he lost his position, he retired, His academic work has disappeared from the pages of Cuban pedagogy, and his exemplary work on the 1956 literacy campaign is not registered in the National Literacy Museum. The official version of SAVED is this: “With the victory of the Revolution he retired and looked with sympathy at the achievement of literacy in Cuba, a campaign that he fought individually in the 1950s.”

The official encyclopedia says nothing about the censorship imposed on him by the revolutionary regime. Despite this, his work and example – pride of Cuban pedagogy – is marked as an educational guide, by creating the first literacy teaching model in Cuba. In history to be rewritten, despite the penalty of anonymity, Ana Echegoyen will take the place that was hers and was denied.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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