Health care is one of the two flags of socialism most flown on my planet over all these years. The other is education. Both are faded and frayed. The first thing lost was the color, then the credibility.

There are many stories told by ordinary citizens on the subject of health. Each one more horrifying than the last. Take care! It’s not about the doctors. They also suffer. I’m referring to the services, the facilities, the medicine.

A few days ago my niece was admitted to the old Sacred Heart clinic, today called Gonzalez Coro hospital. They had to give her a cesarean section after working a full day to induce labor. That same night I went to visit her. The only bus route that lets me off nearby never comes, and when it does pass it doesn’t stop, so I decided to walk. Unfortunately at this hour the cemetery, which is the shortcut to Vedado, had closed its doors. I had to go through La Timba neighborhood, but with the evening still light it wasn’t too dangerous. The return would be by 23rd St.

On arriving at the hospital tired from the walk I saw that only one elevator was working and it had a lot of people waiting so I took a deep breath and climbed the stairs to the 5th floor. It was partially illuminated. There was only one light bulb every two floors.

Looking for my niece’s quarters, I stuck my head in every room until I found hers, number 15, handwritten on paper stuck with glue and almost coming off, marked the door.  Hugging my niece, still in pain, I saw Laurita at her side in a cradle, pretty, healthy, pink. I reached out my hand to turn on the light and I realized that the electric switch was balanced in a hole almost without plaster. Then the image of that beautiful clinic of the 50’s came to my mind. Only the green granite floor was left intact.  It had born the brunt of abuse although now it no longer shone.

My niece, very content, when saying goodbye told me in a conspiratorial tone: Aunt, see how far we’ve come, now when babies are born they no longer need to be spanked to stimulate a holler, they only say to them, “You were born in Cuba, and just like that they start to cry.”

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 17 2011