Although far from my beloved planet, I keep up with what is happening there thanks to the internet, which here in this corner of France, as in almost every other country, is available to all, which is not the case back home, where only the most privileged have free access to it.

This small city of 20,000 inhabitants has everything any human being would need to live — heated homes, well-paved roads and excellent traffic signals, clean streets and sidewalks, a system for sorting out the trash generated in the course of daily life, schools, churches, stores, restaurants, parks, supermarkets and museums. Most notably the state and the citizenry also pay a great deal of attention to protected ecological zones, the preservation and care of plants and wildlife, and to city rules and regulations. It has, in other words, everything that a human being needs for a good and healthy existence.

Being with this very important part of my family, I cannot get out of my mind how ironic it is that my small island is being punished — as though all the exhaustion and suffering that has built up for more than half a century were not enough — by an epidemic that had been eradicated since the 19th century.

Today, I carefully observed citizens and neighbors taking their own trash to locations near their homes, where all this material was sorted into separate containers to be later recycled and repurposed as new commodities. Even children know about and take part in this activity. In their homes and in their schools they are educated and informed about the importance of this civic activity. They are also taught respect for community property and the need to abide by rules and regulations. All this made me embarrassed for my country, which until 1959 was at the  forefront in Latin America with respect to hygiene and public health. This was also true in many other areas, where we ranked at or near the top, not only in the region, but also in relation to some European countries.

As it began to snow, the picturesque landscape of Alsatian buildings — some very old ones mixed with modern ones, all built according to regulations and respectful of an architectural sensibility that does not disrupt the harmony of the surroundings — took on a new enchantment as it became cloaked in white.

Returning from out stroll, we walked along Allée des Platanes, between the villages of Blotzheim and Altkirsch, which had been planted with trees on both sides of the roadway during the reign of Napoleon III. I could not help thinking about my neighbors in Havana, Carmelo and Felipe, who had not left a single tree standing on our street. Here is but one example of the differences in culture and education.

January 21 2013

About these ads