“When Fidel Castro rode victoriously into Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, Juan Montes Torre rushed into the streets to cheer. A poor, uneducated laborer from the eastern countryside of Cuba, he had arrived in the capital a few years earlier and, like most of his neighbors, could hardly believe what was happening… ‘ These bearded men, poorly dressed — they won! And on behalf of the lower classes!’ ” D. Cave, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“Mr. Montes, who was 25 at the time, stayed loyal to Mr. Castro, who died on Friday, from that moment. The Castro revolution gave him an education, a home, and a job as a police officer who sometimes guarded the comandante himself. But that allegiance slipped from generation to generation in Mr. Montes’s family, and in Cuba as a whole. His son’s views darkened decades ago, during tussles with the Castro government’s restrictions. His teenage granddaughter, Rocio, has spent most of her youth feeling glum about the conditions in her country.
The Father: Mr. Montes first heard of the barbudos, or bearded rebels, when he was picking coffee and fruit in the fields in Cuba’s eastern province of Guantánamo. It was the early 1950s, and poor farmers in the area had started banding together, revolting against wealthy landowners. Mr. Castro was among many leaders said to be demanding better working conditions…There was a lot of injustice back then, Mr. Montes said. Coups, crime. The government didn’t care at all for the people… After taking power in 1959, Mr. Castro promised radical change. In December that year, Mr. Montes was hired as a police officer. It was his first steady job since his arrival in Havana and came with free schooling, leading him from a fourth-grade education to a high school diploma.
The Son: The entrance to Juan Carlos’s home is covered in green vines with bunches of bitter grapes…If his father’s image of Mr. Castro and the revolution was shaped by the changes of the 1950s or ’60s, his views have been sculpted by the transition from the flush 1980s to the scavenging ’90s. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost a patron that had provided around $4 billion a year in credits and subsidies… In his 20s, he worked at Cuba’s customs agency, as his father had after his tenure on the police force. He said his frustration peaked in the late 1980s when he was rebuffed by Communist Party officials for gathering recommendations from colleagues for improving the agency.They they just told me: ‘That’s not right. Here are the things we are going to talk about, and you, don’t stand up and talk.’
The Granddaughter: Rocio dreams of becoming an art historian…In her eyes, Cuba is purgatory, and even before he died, Mr. Castro was a specter of the past, studied in textbooks more than seen… Her older sister already lives in Spain. Her best friend went to Miami for a vacation one summer and stayed, telling Rocio about the crowded shopping malls and the impressive facilities at her new school.
Most of Rocio’s friends, she said, hope to get out of Cuba as soon as they can. Rocio mostly wants Cuba to catch up. Why is there no open and affordable access to the internet? Why can’t she easily get on Facebook to say hi to her sister in Barcelona?… She wants the same thing her grandfather and Fidel Castro wanted when they were young, radical change and a fair shot at making a life for herself on her terms.”
“In life, he was often an enigma; in death, for Cuban families like the Monteses, he is a collage of competing images, from the inspiring young rebel to the out-of-touch old man.”
“A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.” Fidel Castro
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about Fidel Castro. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. As a class list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- In life, Castro was often an enigma.
- In 1953, Mr. Castro staged his first major attack.
- The Cuban police didn’t abuse anyone.
- There was a flurry of activity after Castro’s death.
- Castro feared Cuba would turn into an American fief.
- Many people were critical of Castro’s authoritarian ways.
- When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost a patron.
- Cuba would need to make some exceptions to the norm.
- Eventually Cuba Cuba adopted capitalism.
- Cuba suffered chronic shortages of fuel, soap, and food.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- According to the article, Mr. Montes, (the father) remained loyal to Mr. Castro.
- His son also remained loyal to Castro.
- His teenage granddaughter, Rocio, has spent most of her youth feeling glum about the conditions in her country.
- The Montes family’s story of faith and disillusion is uncommon.
- Cuban families have been arguing about Mr. Castro since he came to power.
- Fidel Castro had 5 children.
- Castro’s death has again produced an intense clash of emotions for many Cubans.
- His relationship to the country was remarkably distant.
- Castro was one of the few world leaders referred to by just their first names.
- It was the early 1970s, when poor farmers began revolting against wealthy landowners.
Grammar Focus: Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over, through, from, during, up, off, before,
- But that allegiance slipped from generation___generation ___Mr. Montes’s family.
- You have ___look___this ___a very cool way.
- Because he ruled___ decades, Mr. Castro’s impact — and the perception___it — changed___time.
- Cubans born___the revolution saw him___a transformative force___ good or ill.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3 questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.