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By Pavel Stankov. October 24, 2013 - 7:39 am
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ayesha Nibbe was the speaker at the second Science-Pub Hawaii event.
Minutes before Nibbe began her talk on Cuba’s healthcare and sports policy at Gordon Biersch, Isabel Lambert, an expatriate from the island nation and a small business owner in Kalihi, rushed on stage in a fiery and indignant outburst, snatching the microphone from VP Todd Simmons.
“This is propaganda!” said the 67-year-old referring to a mini-quiz given to all listeners at the beginning of the second Science-Pub event.
The short questionnaire presented recent Cuban history and policies in favorable light. For instance, in four of the five questions with a clear value judgment in the options, the correct answer was the most amiable to Cuban healthcare.
Lambert was politely escorted offstage by Associate Professor in History Pierre Asselin, after which Simmons reminded the audience of the sensitivity of the issues.
After she left without hearing Nibbe’s talk, Lambert clarified her position on two points of the quiz.
The first question asked how many medical doctors Cuba has sent abroad with the options “Estimated 20,000,” “Almost 50,000,” and “More than 100,000.” Lambert agreed the answer was the last option, but insisted this is run as a business by Castro’s government which makes money off countries that use Cuba’s high quality medical personnel without paying them adequate wages or allowing their families to leave the country.
A second point of contention was the only question where the most positive to Cuban government option was not the correct one: “In pre-Castro Cuba, illiteracy was a big problem, with 40% of the population uneducated. What is the illiteracy rate today?” with the options “Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent,” “About 4 percent,” and “Illiteracy has been eliminated.” The correct answer is about 4 percent. Lambert again agreed, though she shared memories of having five students when she was in high school that she taught to read from “a doctrine against the U.S.”
The quiz was prepared by HPU’s Public Relations team mostly from materials from Nibbe’s chapter “Cuban Internacionalistas, Sports, and the Health of the Socialist Body” in the book Health Travels: Cuban Health(care) On and Off the Island, published by University of California Medical Humanities Press.
According to Simmons, the questionnaire was intended to brighten up the mood before the presentation, and not to create any sort of antagonism. Having a professional background in Florida, he also sympathized with Lambert’s passionate speech.
Simmons added that such sensitive subjects stir people’s emotions but “HPU doesn’t shy away from controversy.”
Lambert and her family left Cuba when she was 17. She classified her background before the revolution as upper middle class. Now, she owns a flower shop in Kalihi.
Nibbe declined to comment.
Her presentation discussed how Cuba abused healthcare as a cornerstone for its political ideology.
Lambert was not the only one to leave. Richelle Baltazar, a Sociology major freshman of Hispanic descent, did not wait for the end of the event either.
“It was so ridiculous,” Baltazar said, saying that the presentation was biased toward Castro.