“Vamos a Cuba” is Going Nowhere

Vamos a Cuba! Is Going Nowhere

Vamos-a-CubaOn November 16, 2009, the United State Supreme Court unanimously denied a petition for writ of certiorari from petitioners, including the American Civil Liberties Union, to keep a children’s book, Vamos a Cuba!, on library shelves in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Though only 32 pages long, the book inspired hundreds of pages of opinion in federal courts and a three-year clash between free speech advocates and those that argued the book falsely portrays life in Cuba and should be replaced with books that are more accurate and representative about current-day conditions in Cuba.

What started as fight between one Cuban-American parent and the administration of one Miami elementary school eventually became a pitched constitutional battle about education, censorship, free speech, and politics. School Board Chairman, Augustin Barrera, stated that the “issues before us, to me are quite clear, it’s issues of inaccuracies, it’s issues of opinions, because sometimes the words that are not said are more powerful than those words which are said. Censorship is when you want to stop somebody from giving another opinion, something that goes against what you believe in. In this particular case, when I read this book, it doesn’t really give an opinion, what it gives is a lack of information, and it’s in that lack of information that I think we as the Cuban community are offended.”

On the other hand, JoNel Newman of the ACLU responded to the decision upholding the school board’s decision to remove the book by saying, “It is a sad day for free speech in our great nation,” and called the case “a huge leap backwards in the battle against censorship.” Is banning this book about rejecting falsehoods or censoring opinion? One Cuban-American quoted in the Miami Herald had a definite opinion on the decision to remove the book: “I fear we may have become what we protest against– a totalitarian government.”

Jane Muir explores this fascinating controversy in CABA Briefs.

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“Vamos a Cuba” is Going Nowhere