Silvio Rodriguez: My First Calling

Cuban troubador Silvio Rodriguez recounts his experience as a 1961 Literacy Campaign brigadista.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
25 mins
Remote video URL


Film has English Subtitles. Closed Captions will be available soon.

The little-known story of Cuban troubadour Silvio Rodriguez, speaking in first person about the life-shifting experience he had at 14-years-old when he signed up to join the youth brigades of the 1961 National Literacy Campaign and taught a rural campesino family how to read and write.

Featured review

Mi primera tarea, a documentary directed by Catherine Murphy, intertwines archival footage from the 1961 literacy campaign in Cuba with an interview with iconic Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez discussing his participation in the literacy saga, Murphy manages to reconstruct an intimate vision of the campaign through the memories that the musician shares.In the documentary, Rodríguez, co-founder of the Nueva Trova movement - an important musical and cultural platform for denouncing political oppression during the rise of political dictatorships in 1960s era Latin America - does not so much fill the role of influential musician. The film focuses instead on his participation in the literacy campaign and how the experience impacted him.
María Isabel Alfonso
NACLA Review


My First Calling explores the little-known story of global music giant Silvio Rodriguez, who intimately recounts coming of age on the youth brigades of the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign, where at only 14-years of age he taught a rural campesino family how to read and write.

Edited together with newly digitized 16mm film footage from the Latin American Newsreels produced and directed by Santiago Alvarez from 1960 to 1990, and with a soundtrack of both Silvio classic compositions and those of younger generation contemporary Cuban composers, he shares the experience of his “first social project” and its relevance for the present.

Awards and Screenings

Director Commentary

I met Silvio Rodriguez in Havana in 2007 while filming interviews for the Maestra documentary. Although the Maestra film focused on the stories of the youngest women teachers from the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign, our Cuban colleagues at the Martin Luther King Center knew that Silvio Rodriguez had also been a young literacy teacher, and insisted that we try to record his story. The opportunity to film his testimony was a special treasure. The interview with Silvio was so natural, spontaneous, I wasn’t sure of how I could possibly do it justice. I cherished it like a special treasure in my footage archives for a decade, until I finally pulled it out again in 2020. Working together with a wonderful team of young Latinx producers and editors, and with newly digitized archival film footage from the Latin American News Reels created by Santiago Alvarez for the Cuban Film Institute ICAIC starting in the 1960s, we can finally share this little-known coming of age story as told by one of the greatsinger-songwriters of our time.

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