HAVANA (AP) – Cuban children wearing red or blue neckerchiefs dance, jump and play in a complex of blocky, Soviet-style buildings with a giant red “Che” scrawled above the entrance.
It’s a kind of cross between slumber party and Scout Jamboree, with a distinctly Cuban flair.
Kids learn skills such as tying knots and how to navigate by the stars; there are also competitions including races to dress themselves blindfolded, as well as sports and cultural activities.
Similar events are held around the island each April 4 to mark the anniversaries of the Organization of Cuban Pioneers and of the Union of Communist Youth.
Cuban schoolchildren are referred to as “pioneers,” and the organization was founded in 1961 to encourage the values of education and social responsibility among children and adolescents.
The Havana building where the event takes place is called the Palace of Pioneers “Ernesto Guevara” – the Argentine-born revolutionary famously nicknamed “Che,” who is loathed by his detractors and venerated as a symbol of revolutionary resistance by his admirers.
More than 50 years after the Cuban Revolution, Guevara is held up here as a model for young people to emulate, with schoolchildren commonly led in chants of “Seremos como el ‘Che'” – “We will be like ‘Che.'”
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