Since the day the first book was published reading has become one of the main activities for people all over the world. Some people consider reading as an entertainment, others find the main source of information in the reading. The tradition of reading aloud in many families has remained since ancient times. Trying to consider the situations when reading aloud seemed to be an unusual affair, it is important to remember cigar factories in Cuba and Key West in the nineteenth century.
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Reading in cigar factories was an essential and even a sacred activity. Remembering the times when it was too difficult to get to Cuba, it should be stated that the limit to telephone, mail and electronic data was a norm for Cuban citizens in difficult political and economic conditions. Being a closed country for many years, Cuba has allowed the presence of such a profession as a reader in Cuban cigar factories. Discussing the reasons for the establishment of this profession and detailed consideration of the reading advantages and disadvantages, it should be stated that the information for reading was selected by the Cuban government that confirmed political importance of the reading in factories.
First of all, being a politically directed activity, reading in the factories was a secret affair which was delegated to those who could be trusted. Reading the classics, such as books by Dumas and Hugo, the news was also announced for the workers. It should be stated that reading the news was one of the main reason for implementing such an activity in the cigar factories. Of course, the presence of the reader showed that the work was completed more successfully and faster, therefore, it was done with higher efficiency, still, the political role cannot be underestimated. Reading for pleasure, many people consciously and unconsciously consumed and remembered the information they were announced. Therefore, most of the news read in the factories was taken for granted.
The nineteenth century was active for Cuba and Key West; the government wanted to have more impact on people and to capture of favor from the side of the employees was important. Living in the modern world, we understand how essential the information is. The government officials also understood the effect information could do on people, therefore, the reading was implemented.
Sometimes reading was for pleasure, however, in most cases, the political background could be noticed. A reader never announced the information which could harm the existed political regime of officials. A reader never presented the information which could encourage people for strikes or other revolutionary activities against the existing government.
Reading in factories was directed at creating public opinion as it was necessary for the government. Thus, here is a part of the information which was presented for factory employees in Cuba and Key West,
In other countries, we have seen itinerant teachers who travel on horseback with saddlebags in which they keep paper and other writing implements, books, an atlas, and so forth… The municipal government pays the teachers’ salaries and provides them with horses and necessities.
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Therefore, the government tried to control teachers. Other information which was directed at factory employees dealt with agriculture and rural life in general, referred to teaching and other spheres of social life where government believed the influence was necessary.
It is possible to say that reading in the factories was aimed at supporting the political education of employees. Being bothered with their work and the ways to feed their families many simple people were far from politics and were not interested in the regime. However, the Cuban government was interested in making active citizens who would fight for their rights and support the necessary regime.
Therefore, even classic reading was selected in a way to teach employees. For example, in Key West people supported independence and it was one of the main political issues. Therefore, the reading texts were directed at proclaiming independence and making people support the idea no matter who hard it could be to reach this independence.
In conclusion, it should be stated that readers in the cigar factories in Cuba and in Key West were aimed at creating a specific behavior among the employees, they were obliged to educate the workers in the way the government was interested into. Readers were like the announcers of the political ideas which had to be supported.
The political education of the working class was one of the main priorities for the government in the nineteenth century as the situation was unstable in the countries under consideration was involved in the nationalist movements. Declamations and propaganda were one of the weapons in the hands of the government, and the official successfully used their weapon. People liked reading; they welcome with pleasure the readers and the information they presented as workers were unaware of the real reasons for reading in factories in Cuba and Key West.
Tinajero, Araceli. El Lector: a History of the Cigar Factory Reader. Translated by Judith E. Grasberg. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010.