November 2013

In “my planet” when a hospital goes under repair, it stops being a health center and it becomes a construction zone.  It has been approximately three years that the Hospital Docente Gral. Calixto Garcia has been under repair.  Some of the hospital’s pavilions have already been restored, but the work has been very slow and there are also many uncontrollable diversions of resources.  So much so that when they finish the last pavilion, they should start all over again with the first pavilions.

I have a friend who after negotiating and waiting, was finally admitted to the hospital.  He told me that when he arrived at his room with his assigned bed number, they told him that the bed was already occupied. Fortunately, the doctor that had attended him was still with him and explained that was not possible, that the bed had been reserved in advance.  They then apologized and the health workers themselves explained that the men with the stretchers were too tired to take the other patient to another floor so they decided to put the patient in that bed.

Last night, visiting my friend, he told me that he found out that when the hospital director was inspecting the floor above hours before the ceremony, there were very surprised when they checked the bathrooms to realize that the plumbing had disappeared.

During the investigations, they confirmed that their own employees, who had participated in the remodeling, had stolen the plumbing.  They stole the water faucets, the flushing systems, as well as other pieces of plumbing which they tied to a rope and dropped down through the back windows of the building, where an accomplice picked them up and took them away.

However, this was not the only incident that had occurred in his first day of hospitalization.  He told me that after settling in his bed, the nurses passed by to ask those who accompanies him and some patients who were in a condition to do so to come out to the entrance because the new director was going to visit and they needed to clean the room. After, my friend, looking into this with one of the employees, was told that “cleanings” were only done on very special occasions like that day, because they were paid a pittance and they didn’t even have adequate tools to clean, so “they didn’t stress about” hygiene.

Translated by Lourdes Talavera, Boston College Cuban American Student Association (CASA)

18 November 2013

1-1384189416_cable-de-la-habitacic3b3n-al-bac3b1p-copy2-1384189416_ventana-bac3b1o3-1384189417_poceta-con-tupicic3b3n4-1384189417_pantry5-1384189418_lavamanos-con-salidero6-1384189419_inodoro-y-cesto-papeles7-1384189420_espejp-y-lc3a1mparaFinally Patricia is a grandmother. Her daughter was admitted a few days ago to Gonzalez Coro Hospital, formerly the Sacred Heart Clinic, in Vedado, Havana, because her baby was born underweight, something very common lately.

She took some photos that helped me to offer this testimony with regards to the comfort and hygiene of this hospital.

Another of the surprises awaiting the new mother were the disputes between other patients, due to the theft of cigarettes. She doesn’t smoke, but she had to breathe the smoke from cigarettes shared between the mothers and the health care workers who cared for them.

11 November 2013

Once again this phrase, so often repeated for more than five decades now, came to my mind when I found out about another step backward, instigated by those who handed down this maxim like a precept at the dawn of the 1960s.

We now have another great setback, this time well into the 21st century and within the framework of the famous “Raul reforms.” Privately-run, home-based 3D cinemas have been closed and self-employed vendors of imported clothing have been given a deadline of December 31 to cease operations. All this has generated a lot of discontent, but that’s as far as it goes. All those affected are trying to figure out how to sell off part of their inventory and recuperate some of their sizable investments. This is especially true of 3D cinemas, which imported equipment and furniture, for the most part from Panama. Everyone is “racking his brains” but no one is going to confront the state, as it knows all too well.

It seems poor nutrition over many decades has adversely affected that part of people’s brains having to do with memory. They do not recall “Operation Bird on a Wire,” when craftspeople in Cathedral Square — from whom everyone bought, including government officials, because of the quality, originality and variety of the goods these artisans produced — were persecuted. Many ended up in prison while others went into exile in search of freedom and new opportunities. And so overnight a little marketplace — one that gave life to the city, supplied goods unavailable in state stores and provided a livelihood for many — simply vanished.

Later on, in the 1990s, came a new offensive — “Operation Potted Plant*” — that abolished the Free Farmers’ Market, which at the time was alleviating the problem of significant food shortages but whose suppliers the government accused of “illegal profiteering.” Many of these suppliers were arrested and had their assets confiscated, just as had happened years earlier to the artisans.

Let us also not forget that other great crusade at the end of the 1990s against the first paladares — home-based private restaurants which were limited to twelve seats — of which only the strongest or most “fortunate” were able to survive.

So we can see, the lack of memory of our citizens, or the desperate attempts to come out of the economic stagnation, has been what has made some take risks now and again, those “optimist” people who finally do not realize that is hard to “play capitalism”, inside a dictatorial regime with more than half of century installed in power.

Therefore, and so there are no mistakes, the government undertakes these types of “operations” cyclically so nobody forgets “who’s in charge”.  Only in a future free and democratic country, is where security will exist for those who want to start their own business.  Then, and only then, is when the private initiatives will flourish.  Perhaps in a future not too far off, we’ll give another connotation to that sadly known phrase of:  “never backwards, not even to gain momentum”, because evidently no one will want to repeat those mistakes.

*Translator’s note: In Cuban slang the term maceta, or potted plant, refers to someone with newly acquired wealth.

6 November 2013

Yesterday, November 1, in the afternoon hours, once again we crossedthe now familiar threshold at Estado de SATS.  In this opportunity, I was the guest of honor, with an exposition of my art in patchwork titled “Women,” dedicated to a gender I belong to and of which I feel proud of, because each day we manage, despite the shortages and inconveniences, to integrate ourselves more into society, sharing and competing side by side, fair and square with many men, without neglecting those tasks that, as mothers, wives and daughters, ancestrally, were “assigned” to us.

I was moved by the beautiful opening words about my trajectory, spoken by my good friend Regina Coyula, but even more was the satisfaction of my friends’ presence, that despite of having work and professional relationships with the only employer of our country, had the courage of ignoring the operation orchestrated by State Security, now so habitual, and came closer, for the first time to this emblematic and “stigmatized” place.

I noticed and missed the presence of some friends that I thought would be there, above all women, the gender to which this exposition was dedicated; some were sick and some had last minute incidents, which sadly must have pleased the “comrades that were taking care of us.”  However, the exposition met its objective, and we showed once more that Estado de SATS is an inclusive place, where arts and thoughts converge, and where the common denominator is the aspiration that Cuba be again a free and democratic country, with all and for the well being of all, as our Apostle Jose Marti would have wished.

My most sincere gratitude to Estado de SATS, the organizers of this beautiful event and to all that came to provide me their support.

Translated by LYD

5 November 2013