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.
- Until the 27th of this month, each new post will carry a reminder of the online voting for the Bobs awards. Remember that Generation Y is competing in three categories: Best Weblog, Reporters Without Borders Special Award and Best Blog in Spanish. Here is the link: