video, audio and photography
Narration (Chinito and the garden)
Design and web development
We are a group of passionate, action-oriented young people from all over the world. We design fun, practical research projects to learn about the experience of other young people. Our aim is to connect with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
With this website we wanted to share our experience working with young people in Cuba. We hope you will enjoy exploring this site!
Select a leaf to navigate between the chapters
Recrear went to Cuba to learn about young people's attitudes towards climate change and what they wanted to do about it.
We went back to the drawing table and designed a participatory action research project to explore how youth engage with climate action in Cuba. So off Gioel, Kirsten and Desirae went.
Gioel is the Director of Research at Recrear. The Cuba project was born in large part because of her friendship with a Cuban activist named Handy.
Desirae is a youth specialist who interned with Recrear during the Cuba project; lending her awesome skills in research and writing.
Kirsten is Recrear’s resident community caretaker. She has spent several years playing with experiential education and youth-friendly techniques.
In our first exploratory visit, we came face to face with incredible ‘youth leaders’ in Cuba’s environmental sector. The problem is they are scattered all over the country so working together is hard. It doesn’t help that communication and transportation kind of suck.
We selected a group of Cuban youth leaders from each region to train in action research.
We ran a series of participatory action research workshops with about 75 young people, aged 18-35 in the cities of Havana, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.
We made a point of the situation and started digesting what we had learned so far.
Our Cuban researchers began their internships which involved running interviews with more than 30 experts, institutions and community organizations.
Final Review Workshop
We got our group of Cuban researchers back together in the same place to assess what we had collectively learned.
We agreed on our lessons learned and shared them via blogs, a photo book of recommendations and in international conferences.
With this we wanted to create a space for young leaders to connect with each other, and create synergies.
Santiago de Cuba
I am Roydes. I am 24 and I study law at the university of Habana. I consider myself to be a curious person. I can be a bit serious, but when I am with my friends I let out these cosmic energies that I tend to keep closeted in my student life. I can be your best friend, but if you do or say something that I don’t like - be careful! Sometimes I say things without thinking.
My name is Liliet, but everyone calls me Lilo, because I look like the protagonist of Lilo and stitch. I’m in my 3rd year of law school and law is my passion. I spend a lot of time focused on my studies, but I actually love dancing and making jokes. I love movies and theatricals plays. My friends say that I’m a tornado. I like authenticity and I can’t stand fake people...
Hi, my name is Jose Ernesto, I am 23 and I am a journalist. As a young person and as a Cuban, I’m interested in understanding the world around me. My greatest passion is literature - I’ve been writing since I was little. I like getting into great conversations with friends, listening to good music, and taking long walks along the beach. I believe that things start to change when we decide to change them. It’s for this reason that I never liked standing with my arms crossed.
I am you, I am him, I am us, I am all of you and I am all of them. I am here and I want to be there. I am Cuban, I have many stories to tell, and many more still to live. I have dreams to share, and many things to say. I have friends, a brother and a beautiful city. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with everything that I have. This time though I do; I am going to show you my Cuba.
I love simplicity. Being born in Cuba has turned me into a ‘revolutionary’ and young person in solidarity with others. This year, I will graduate in agrarian engineering from the Central University ‘de las Villas’ in Santa Clara. Like a good Cuban, I love partying but, despite the stereotypes, I really can’t dance.
If I had to describe myself in three lines I would say happy, free, living at the limits, intense, sensual, sensible, from time to time cheesy, a realist, and finally ‘santiaguera’… Hello everyone, I am Roxana. I love writing, photography, sharing a good coffee with friends and my mother’s kiss.
My name is Dailenis and biology is my passion. I am 27, I love enjoying nature, sports, and, most importantly, my daughter.
A cuban through and through, I love music and dancing. My passions are literature, movies and all the random opportunities that life brings along. I constantly try to understand and answer the many questions that are endlessly running through my head. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about some of them.
We spent 7 months in Cuba working with 10 young researchers, and 75 young people from 3 cities: Havana, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.
Enter every point on the map to meet our young Cuban researchers.
We asked our researchers to come up with a question for a photography exercise. Click on the different elements in the drawing to check out what came out of it.
“(…)The ‘chinito’ (little chinese), as he was warmly nicknamed, showed me that subconsciously nature helps us, is our friend, yet we barely give it our time. I reflected about it and I started spending a bit more time in the little garden so important to Chinito, who could have easily been my grandfather. Suddenly, everything around me completely changed.”
Near my dorm there is a little garden. I never really paid attention to it. As I would go and come back from class, always busy, the garden would say hi to me every day. Absorbed in my own world, I barely even noticed. Strangely enough, I finally start paying attention to it, when something really sad happened. One of the gardeners fell ill. It saddened me because he is a sweet, old man who always looks after us in the dorm. I was surprised when, between tears, he was complaining that he would not be able to take care of the garden which had given so much joy to his long life.
He explained how this small place had allowed him to maintain a strong relationship with nature and its fruits. That space took him back to his hometown, to the countryside where he grew up. I realized that there are people that have a much more powerful relationship with nature than I do.
The ‘chinito’ (little Chinese), as he was warmly nicknamed, showed me that subconsciously nature helps us, is our friend, yet we barely give it our time. I reflected about it and I started spending a bit more time in the little garden that is so important to Chinito, who could have easily been my grandfather. Suddenly, everything around me completely changed.
I surrounded myself with all types of medicinal and aromatic plants. I even learned about a banana tree that started waving at me a little branch full of fruit that nobody could touch without the consent from the guardians of the garden. I felt somewhat responsible and yet comforted by this space which had been transformed, by the hands of Chinito and the other custodians, into a productive space.
Chinito proudly explained to me everything that I had never come close enough to see being so caught up with my life. I was lost between the smell of oregano, tilo (a medicinal plant) and mint. I discovered that some of these spices are used to make the food we eat every day in the cafeteria.
I left the garden understanding exactly why Chinito was feeling so down, and I think I am still a bit sad now, writing about this. The love and dedication that he has given to this garden is incomparable – the willingness to live of this sweet old man, as I tell him, is contained in the garden which he took care of for so long. I believe that now, I will always be aware of the gardem. Maybe I won’t take care of it every day, but I will start giving it a little bit of my time, even if it’s just to say hi.
A geography student at the University of Habana and part of the Recrear/CYEN research team.
Click repeatedly on the three red marks to reveal the story.
Liliet, what do you know about the marabou plant?
Why, everyone knows that the useless marabou weed is basically one of the greatest threats to our island!
What else do you know about it?
It is impossible to get rid of the damn thickets! This makes it hard to clear out more land to grow more food crops domestically.
Well, actually, this is all wrong.
If you get rid of the marabou, what happens?
Well, you expose the soil to direct sunlight, stripping it of moisture and nutrients essential for supporting plant and animal life.
The Marabou, with its deep roots, helps to reintroduce nitrogen and prevent soil erosion. And this is just the beginning. The plant is also food for many animals. Dead marabou fertilizes the soil, not to mention that the wood is a valuable source of fuel for cooking and heating.
The marabou is a central element of its ecosystem. It is integrated into a natural system that relies precisely upon the interconnectedness and interdependence between the elements: the specific combination and variety of vegetation, animal life, soil, water, and climate conditions. If you remove the marabou, well, you completely disturb this natural balance and disrupt the biological cycle
Ah, interesting. So why do we all hate the marabou?
Well, once large-scale agro industrial sugarcane production declined some two decades ago in Cuba, the land that had been used to grow the sugarcane was abandoned.
Sugarcane farming left unfertile soil behind that was then invaded with the marabou.
The dominant view is that the marabou prevents people from using these idle lands and making them cultivable. Ironically enough, the “weed” has actually helped to rejuvenate the land and biodiversity.
I see… but the marabou is really hard to get rid of when you want to start farming again!
Well, the marabou is there precisely because you are not farming. The challenge is to realize that everything in nature has a role, even when it seems ‘bad’. The challenge is to grow food sustainably in a way that will maintain and reinforce this natural ecosystem.
The philosophy in permaculture is to start by observing all the elements in a specific place (the climate, soil composition, water vegetation, animal life, etc.).
Then you try to design a system accounting for and reinforcing the interconnection between all of these elements involved in that particular ecosystem. So what I am saying is that we need to be creative- and make the most of the marabou.
A Conversation Between Liliet and a Permaculturalist (Havana, Cuba).
The above conversation is based on an interview that we had with Silvio. Silvio and his family have designed an urban family farm (Finca Mambí) based on the principles of permaculture.
How do you feel about all the pollution in Havana?
Well the problem is that we can’t afford new cars. The cars we have are from the 50s, of course they pollute a lot! If we were able to afford new cars, things would be better. We could introduce a law to limit cars from producing too much pollution, but without a better economy it simply won’t work.
Without any doubt, strengthening the economy is essential; we need technology to protect the environment.
Who says that with more economic growth we will have less pollution? We might have better cars, but if we have three times more cars, there will be more pollution and a the city will be more crowded.
Plus, the problem is that new cars are designed to have a shorter life span. Yes, we still use cars from the 50s, but how often would we have to change our cars if we could afford new ones? And what kind of environmental damage would be caused by increased consumerism?
Well, I agree. Interestingly enough, developed countries contribute more to the degradation of the environment, despite having better technologies.
The social and economic development requires more creativity. The problem is not a simple question of economic development. The real, huge problems are the models of economic growth.
We facilitated a debate in Havana with a group of 25 young people. We divided them into three groups. One group was asking questions, one group was answering, and one group was observing. Participants were asked to put themselves in the shoes of a different character: a journalist from Granma (a local newspaper), an environmentalist, a taxi driver, a housewife, a young musician. The idea was to reflect over how different people relate to the problem of climate change in Cuba.
On the one hand Cubans finds ways to live in sync with nature. They feel the responsibility to act in an environmentally conscious way. Yet they also feel they have a right to economic growth. Are these dreams mutually exclusive?
Unlock the five points on the map by entering each one and solving the activity, in the end you will discover the hidden treasure.
What are the things that make you happy? Put on a song (we recommend arrival of the birds ) and reflect on all those moments, people, places and activities you associate to happiness in your life.
Learning in Cuba:
This exercise gave us a sense of what young people in Cuba value. What featured most in people's list included family, baseball and sex!
Imagine your community. Draw it out in the way you see it in your mind's eye. It doesn't have to be to scale! Then draw hearts over the places that are environmentally conscious and x's over the places where there's neglect.
Learning in Cuba:
Doing community mapping was a great way to learn about environmental initiatives happening in each city while also highlighting spots of neglect. We learned that there is a lot more going on in Havana, the capital, compared to Villa Clara or Santiago. Overall, our participants had a really good sense of how environmental degradation and climate change effected their communities.
Our relationship to nature has not always been the same. Recall your grandparent’s generation, your own generation, and what about your little brothers/sisters/nephews/nieces - what is their emerging future? What is a word you would use to describe each?
Learning in Cuba:
We did this exercise using freeze frames to bring some of their interpretations to life. What we found is that Cuba's past generation had a stronger relationship to nature even though they were not versed in today's generation of climate talk.
The world is a pretty big place that we hardly know it. Draw the map of the world without looking at any reference! Represent it however you want!
Learning in Cuba:
Wow! Cubans are deeply affected by their socio-political climate. It showed in the way that they decided to depict Cuba in exile, or Cuba amidst a contaminated world.
We might have a lot of ideas about our community, some are tucked away in the back of our minds. What better way to bring it out than by writing a letter to an authority figure in your community. Pick whoever that would be in your community and write to them about the environmental action you'd like to see in your community. (100 characters minimum)
Learning in Cuba:
Turns out Cubans are very capable of articulating themselves when it comes to what needs to get done. They used this space to point out the areas of neglect and suggest initiatives to remedy this.
upload it and share your exprerience on Facebook or Instagram with hashtag #ChangingTheClimate
How did we learn together in Cuba? We learned a lot experientially and we invite you to do the same. Let’s play some games, shall we?
Cuba is full of paradoxes, but if there is ever a moment to learn from the Cuban experience it is now. We believe there is something Western countries could learn from Cuban youths’ relationship towards nature.
Many young Cubans have an intimate understanding of what it would take to improve environmental efforts in their community.
We realized that Cuba is changing quickly. Things are changing even faster now with the lift of the embargo.
We wonder what Cuba’s development will look like. Will they prioritize building an intimate relationship with nature or will they follow the “classic” western development path?
We learned that caring for the environment in Cuba is a very personal affair because...