There she goes, leading the main band. Guantanamo was her only option, because in Santiago de Cuba she couldn’t get a place at the Normal School for Teachers.
Relatives whom she always thanked, welcomed her during the years of study. Only one hot meal a day, in the afternoon at the foster home. At noon, just for a fruit smoothie.
Slim and slender, she stood out as a student leader and became involved in revolutionary activities, witnessing the prevailing social injustice. She did not like the attitude of the Yankee marines when they approached the city, on their day off. “Her behavior of hers was reckless. They treated all women without respect, regardless of the fact that we girls were schoolchildren in our early youth”.
Beyond were the “zones of tolerance” where they finally ended up, in search of pleasures. Some stayed in Caimanera, where they had it all figured out, closer to the North American Naval Base located in Guantánamo.
More than once her godfather, the best-known tailor in the city, had to intervene for her, involved in social causes. “Stay out of those things, Marlenita. Does not suit you”. But the fragile girl even loaded ammunition under her petticoat, while she strove to finish her studies with the best grades.
One day, in the midst of a riot, an officer picked her up on the street and took her in a car to her tailor’s house. A pact of silence between that strange policeman and the young woman’s Moorish eyes allowed him to avoid the shame of receiving a scolding from her indulgent godfather.
The tailor’s daughter still remembers that sweet girl who took them to church on Sundays. Thanks to her family, Marlene became a teacher and returned to Palma Soriano.
In his town, the squares -in the few schools- were formally occupied. There were even some for rural teachers, only on the payroll, because the “owners” of the positions, got paid without going up the mountain. So the impetuous young woman went to the mountain agreeing to collect only half her salary. The other half was for whom she was “appointed” for the position of teacher, but sitting in her house.
She was stimulated by enthusiasm and the desire to teach, because to get to Cambute, the intricate coffee-growing area where she was going, there were no roads. Only horses and expert riders made access possible. But she Marlene did not know fear.
Searching for the school, he found only trees.
Do you want to learn? That’s why I’m here. In the house of María and Manuel Rizo, everyone was illiterate. The peasants made a space for her in her humility, for the girl who made them see life differently. Some children of this peasant couple were older and larger than Marlene, so they played pranks on the village girl, such as placing a frog inside her reading book, or cutting a twig and pulling it, in the middle. of the class. Seeing her jump startled was the best heavy joke on the mountain.
Meanwhile, they began with the first vowels and numbers, under a leafy flamboyant tree, in which they finished a classroom for children and adults, with the efforts of the peasants themselves. In the other half day, everyone went to pick up coffee. Between sips, familiarity and successive days, they learned to read and write. To make a long story short, Marlene continued to pour that nectar into her old age, because the children of María and Manuel Rizo were eternally grateful to her teacher and never stopped visiting her.
Then came the Revolution and Marlene, as a qualified teacher, went where it was needed: La Aguada de Vázquez. In April 1959, they define the need to cover a thousand places in the mountain schools.
“More than a million Cuban citizens did not know how to read or write. Then there were about 6 and a half million inhabitants. Close to a third of the population were between completely illiterate and semi-illiterate. In the rural sector there were 600,000 children without schools and contradictorily, more than 10,000 teachers who did not have classrooms where they could practice their profession”.
In La Aguada she was welcomed by the Jodar family, who lived next to the school. She then she did not know Marlene that there she would find the love of her life.
The young man dressed in olive green, due to his bustle and revolutionary risks, began to hang around the fence of the school, and did not miss the opportunity to talk to him or bring him some fruit for his snack. Falling in love with Marlene was a challenge. That angel of joy and virtue, was the sensation of the village on the edge of the railway.
Soon there was talk of compromise. Once her mission of teaching was over, she left with the duty fulfilled and the promise of marriage. He went after her and took root so much that he came to love her people as his own and contributed so much of her from her transparent humility, like her.
Marlene continued teaching in the mountains as a volunteer teacher, it was when she lost her first pregnancy, even without knowing that she was carrying a child in her womb. She happened to get off a railway car, not suitable for passengers and still mourns her lost son.
With the passing of time, his two girls born in the first Cuban special period arrived: 1962-63, cyclone Flora through, harvests and goals.
For all she was an unforgettable primary teacher. She later founded the Education for Special Children, of Palma Soriano and surrounding regions. A specialty that took her life and heart, because she learned and taught children and adolescents to grow, with various learning difficulties.
Most of them left the “Primero de Mayo” school with a trade and life skills. Not a day goes by that they don’t receive congratulations for teacher Marlene, from her families, from themselves or from people who don’t forget her.
Marlene became a legend in school teaching in Palma Soriano. She remembered for her expansive cultural work, on many fronts, from her core that she valued as a divine jewel: her little school.
For her work as an educator, she received the title of National Labor Heroine. A distinction given to an ordinary woman, who behaves heroically.