[Marxism] Armando Hart, Who Revolutionized Cuban Schools, Dies at 87
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 30 09:56:30 MST 2017
NY Times, Nov. 30 2017
Armando Hart, Who Revolutionized Cuban Schools, Dies at 87
By SAM ROBERTS
Armando Hart, who as Fidel Castro’s confidant and first education
minister redeemed the Cuban revolution’s vow of universal literacy, died
on Sunday in Havana. He was 87.
The cause was respiratory failure, the Cuban Communist Party said.
Mr. Hart, a lawyer whose grandfather was born in the United States and
immigrated to Cuba, was also, later, his country’s first culture minister.
An early member of Castro’s inner circle, Mr. Hart had played an
integral role in the government for more than five decades since 1959,
when revolutionaries toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista,
which the United States supported. Mr. Hart was also responsible for
recruitment and promotions in Cuba’s Communist Party.
Named education minister by the provisional president, Manuel Urrutia
Lleo, immediately after the revolution, Mr. Hart served until 1965. He
was credited with recruiting as many as 100,000 student volunteers to
help slash Cuba’s illiteracy rate in a single year, to less than 5
percent from about 25 percent.
His ministry also purged dissident teachers, refused the request of
Roman Catholic Church officials to allow religious instruction in public
schools and required university students to learn a trade or skill. By
the end of the decade, primary school education was available almost
Mr. Hart served on the Council of State until 2008 and was a member of
the parliament when he died.
He wrote several books; directed the government’s José Martí cultural
program, dedicated to the 19th-century Cuban poet and revolutionary
hero; and was the president of the José Martí Cultural Society. In 2010
he was awarded the Order of José Martí, the Council of State’s highest
Mr. Hart was less doctrinaire than some of his Communist colleagues. He
counseled an arm’s-length relationship with the Soviet Union, but, early
on, also voiced support for armed insurrections against Latin American
dictatorships supported by the United States.
After Castro jailed a dissident poet, Mr. Hart sought to reconcile with
Cuba’s intellectuals by creating a culture ministry. Heading the
ministry from its inception in 1976 until 1997, he allowed for
creativity but also viewed culture through a political prism.
Early in his tenure, making an overture of sorts to American television
executives who were visiting a jazz festival in Havana, Mr. Hart told
them: “If you send us bombs, we will send you bombs. If you send us
music, we will send you music.”
While he reminded the Writers’ Union of José Martí’s dictum “Justice
first, art later,” he proclaimed shortly after his cultural ministry was
established, “Justice has triumphed, forward with art.”
Armando Hart Davalos was born in Havana on June 13, 1930. His
American-born grandfather went to Cuba from Georgia as a child. His
father, also named Armando, was a Cuban court of appeals judge.
Mr. Hart earned a doctorate in law from the University of Havana in
1952. That same year his activism was sparked when Batista, while
running for president, staged a coup.
Mr. Hart was a founder of Castro’s 26th of July Movement, named for the
failed attack on an army barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953. He served
as its national coordinator until he was jailed for suspected terrorism.
Rescued from prison, he was recaptured in 1958 and remained in custody
for months until the revolution.
His younger brother died in 1958 when, according to the authorities, a
bomb he was making exploded prematurely.
By then, the Hart family was prominent enough that after the younger
Armando was arrested, a United States agent checked on his well-being
with officials of the Batista government, according to Thomas G.
Paterson’s book “Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of
the Cuban Revolution” (1994).
“Through this concern,” Mr. Paterson wrote, “the C.I.A. agent probably
saved Hart’s life — at least Castro thought so.”
Haydee Santamaria, Mr. Hart’s wife and a heroine of the revolution, was
quoted at the time as saying that she hoped some day to present the
American agent with a bouquet.
There was no immediate information on Mr. Hart’s survivors. His wife
committed suicide in 1980, and their children, Celia and Abel, were
killed in a car accident in Havana in 2008.
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