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Teresa Bevin is available for lectures, seminars and other professional presentations on psychotherapy, multicultural diversity, writing and bilingual authoring.

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Writers and Artists in Havana Thrive in Spite of Adversity

COLLEGE PARK, MD, May 3, 2003 - Following a trip this April to Havana, Cuba, educator and author Teresa Bevin is convinced of the importance of maintaining an open dialogue between the people of the Cuba and the United States. Bevin, who read from and discussed her bilingual collection of short stories, "Dreams and Other Ailments / Sueños y otros achaques," was impressed by the receptivity and enthusiasm of her literary peers. "The arts are flourishing in a unique manner right now," she stated in a recent interview. "There is a sense of community between the various disciplines in which the artists give creative support to one another."

Bevin met with members of the National Union of Artists and Writers and with representatives of the sector for higher education.  On this, her second visit since she emigrated to the U.S., the Cuban-born writer saw many changes since her visit a dozen years ago. The legacy of the Cuban belief in universal education was evident everywhere -- from the facile manner in which students grasped new science and technology to innovative forms of artistic creations, to remarkable comprehension of business theory -- all done with limited resources and within strict government guidelines.

Stage backdrop at Havana National TheaterThough the influx of tourism from countries other than the U.S. has opened the eyes of Cuba’s citizens to modern global society, Bevin sees the evolving culture in Cuba as running parallel to, not the same as world trends, developing from the bits and pieces of contact its society has with other cultures. "Like everywhere else in the world, the artistic community is stratified, with a small segment at the top of the pyramid and larger, less–privileged groups towards the bottom. Like other societies this stratification is not always based on artistic merit. The difference in Cuba is that the more successful and renowned artists and writers maintain contact with the up-and-coming population, thereby creating a cross-pollination of the old and the new, so that the old never really becomes antiquated, but continues to evolve." 

Much of the artists' and writers' works are sold abroad, in Europe and South America, and can be easily found advertised on the internet.  As their popularity and productivity increases, the artists receive an increase in their stipends from the government -- and sometimes, the opportunity to purchase a computer or car.  But the majority of income generated by these individuals still goes to the government.  According to Bevin, it seemed that if the artists devoted the time they spent on their creativity to working in the tourist industry which generates "dollars," they would be very wealthy individuals.  "What I saw in these people was fervor for their country -- not in the abstract, ultra-nationalistic sense, but fervor for everything they touched or that touched them. This new breed of artist is the Phoenix of Cuba's culture, born of history and spreading the wings of a new humanism which nurtures and feeds an individuality that will not be suppressed."

Bevin noted that in spite of the growing entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban  population, the changeover to a dollar-based monetary system has left some people on the edge of poverty, passively reinforcing an unofficial economic classism that the "Revolution" purportedly was to erase. "It’s not good being old unless you have someone to take care of you who has dollars," said one woman. Tourist hotel courtyard, Havana, Cuba

Bevin recounts witnessing another woman and her grandson being turned away from a museum because she could not pay the two U.S. dollars each for entrance. A "good" monthly income in Cuba is 300 pesos, which is approximately equivalent to 12 U.S. dollars for all practical purposes. Four dollars, then, would be the equivalent of 100 pesos - a full third of a person’s monthly income.

"I'm concerned about the resurgence of antagonistic political posturing between our governments," Bevin continued in her interview. "The exchange of information, education, culture between the two countries is not an easy proposition right now. If the mutual finger-pointing continues, who knows what the outcome will be? The people of Cuba and the U.S. have both suffered enough cultural deprivation, and both peoples have so much to offer."

Bevin is the author of the novel "Havana Split," the bilingual collection of short stories "Dreams and Other Ailments/Sueños y otros Achaques," and is a contributor to several college level textbooks on multicultural mental health and therapy.

She has planned a series of lectures for Fall 2003 in which she will discuss immigration, education and the literary experience. For more information or to schedule a lecture or reading, contact Connie Chmura at 240-472-5809, e-mail

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