Against forgetting

Noon Saturday found us on the highway heading to Pinar del Río.   The grass at the side of the road had already grown, but the leafless palms recalled the disaster that happened just two months ago.  Life is slower, as if Ike and Gustav had reimposed the nineteenth century image these fields once had.  If not for an old tractor here or an electrical tower there, you would think you had traveled two centuries back in time.  Some houses had new roofs of asbestos cement, which will be food for the winds of the next hurricane.

The two backpacks of medicine and clothes we’d gathered among friends turn out to be very limited for all the needs facing us.  Food is scarce, especially, and ironically, that which comes from the furrows.  Even the children, who normally pick out the pieces of cucumber from their plates, miss the peculiar flavor of this vegetable.  The land delays its healing.  The small independent farmer has seen increased pressure to sell his crop to the State rather than in the free markets, where he could reap greater profits.  This generates disinterest in production, and empty stalls at the points of sale.  Again, as in those years of adversity in the nineties, it’s necessary to leave the city to buy yucca, onions or a piece of pork.

Between Havana and Pinar del Río there are two police checkpoints choosing cars at random to verify no one is trafficking in milk, cheese or food.  Like the sophisticated medical devices that look inside the human body, people have baptized these checkpoints “CAT scans.”  In the stretches of highway without patrols, illegal vendors show their merchandise and hide themselves whenever a vehicle with official plates passes.

Although for the media the news of disaster is fading from view, in the lives of the victims it’s the lead story of every day.  We have to avoid letting our tendency to forget cover up the situation, letting the triumphalism make us believe that everything’s already over, letting the avalanche of positive reports deceive us about the depths of the catastrophe.  I remind everyone that we have to go to the affected areas, deliver aid directly, and record the testimonies there.  The hurricane-force winds are still blowing in the lives of these people and will not diminish because we cover our ears.

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5 thoughts on “Against forgetting

  1. Pingback: Visit Dystopia - Armando Bronca

  2. I feel their pain being a native of New Orleans. We are still having the same problem among many in my city. We fell off the map, mostly. The only thing that brought Katrina and New Orleans back to the discussion was Gustav and Ike as we felt the wrath of Gustav and even encountered coastal flooding from Ike, which pretty much destroyed Galveston, Texas. The city is getting better. It is taking time (over 3 years now), but for those who don’t have resources, it is almost as bad as it was the day after Katrina hit. I imagine whole swaths of Cuba being like parts of New Orleans now, but years from now. Unfortunately, I don’t really expect things to get better there. Sorry. It’ll just take people a lot of time to rebuild. Probably a generation or so. While Cuba is poor it just goes to show you that government doesn’t have the resources to deal with this stuff, and nor do they really care. The one possible exception that comes to my mind is Kobe, Japan, which suffered a 9.1 earthquake. The government worked for over 10 years to get that city rebuilt. It was considered a national priority and a social requirement to rebuild the place. That’s an exception rather than a rule, and you live in a place that prioritizes socialism. Obviously we know that is crap. The priority is staying in power with absolute control. Screw ’em. Suerte!

  3. I wanted to go to some of these places last time I was in Cuba a month ago, my friends over there all told me not to, we still found a way to get the things we’d brought to the hurricane victims and I’m glad they got it. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to go, but seeing the devastation in the areas “not badly affected by the storms” I can only image Pinar del Rio.

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