Student takes top poetry prize in Cuba

Yinet Ferrer, the top prizewinner at this year's International Classical Chinese Poetry Recitation Contest in Cuba, says she has been inspired by Chinese poetry.

By presenting "Ode to plum blossom", one of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong's most famous poems, Ferrer won her entry into the online contest and went on to the final after other rounds.

Even though Ferrer has won many awards during her student life, "none of them makes me prouder than this one", says the third-year Chinese-language student at Confucius Institute in Havana.

Ferrer, who works as a psychopedagogue at Jose de la Luz y Caballero High School in Havana's El Cerro district, started to learn Mao's poem three months prior to the contest.

"Amid the world's present challenges, Chinese poetry has inspired me," Ferrer, 26, says. "This poem sends a very strong message of optimism, faith and persistence to overcome obstacles no matter what the circumstances."

She began studying Chinese in 2015, enrolling in a course at the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions in Havana's Chinatown. She says Chinese poetry has unlocked vast knowledge about Chinese culture.

"I want to write a novel on the Chinese presence in Cuba, but that is a future plan," she says. "For the moment, I am very much enjoying the prize."

Over the past few years, the study of Chinese language and culture has been on the rise in Cuba, thanks to the work of organizations such as Confucius Institute, which has seen thousands of students graduate since its founding in 2009.

Chinese language professor Chang Xiaoyu says poetry continues to be an effective tool for teaching China's extensive history.

"Chinese poems transmit the beauty of our language, which effectively constitutes a platform to promote our values, principles and philosophy of life," Chang says.