What remains after the tragedy

The location in the Alps where the remains of the Germanwing plane are strewn (Ministry of the Interior)

The location in the Alps where the remains of the Germanwing plane are strewn (Ministry of the Interior)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 30 March 2015 — There are clothes scattered across the mountains, open suitcases, children’s dolls that will never be played with again. Things that belonged to people who until recently were alive and of whom barely a memory is left, a trail of goods that will be sorted and conveyed to the families of the victims. The tragedy of Germanwings A320, crashed in the French Alps, makes me reflect, like many others, on the brief second that separates us from death. A suicidal leader, a madman at the helm, a war unleashed by others … a thousand and one ways to die that life brings us.

One evening in 1985 my family sat around the set table, waiting for Grandma. She never came, because two drunks in the middle of a brawl fatally wounded her in a nearby café. Her plate remained on the table. Cold, alone, with the spoon to its side and a glass of water making a wet round mark on the wood. Afterwards there were her shoes, the wallet where she treasured her money and a nutmeg. Her clothes hanging in the wardrobe along with some photos from her youth that we never got to ask her about where they’d been taken.

The things the dead leave us are sometimes more difficult to deal with than the memories themselves. What to do with that note they wrote before leaving home to remember to buy eggs, salt and a little oil? Their drawers, the sheets they slept on their last night, the cookies they liked so much? How to quiet the way the comb speaks, still with their hair, the Facebook account in which they recorded their last “like” or that red circle on the calendar that marked their birthday?

The things the dead leave us have their own voice. They remind us every time we look at them that in that fabric, wielding that pen, or looking into that mirror, until yesterday, had been someone who breathed and whom we loved.

14 thoughts on “What remains after the tragedy


    BLOOMBERG NEWS: The Cuban Money Crisis – The biggest change to the island’s economy isn’t the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations – by Patrick Symmes

    The currency crisis starts about 75 feet into Cuba. I land in the late afternoon and, after clearing customs, step into the busy arrivals hall of Havana’s airport looking for help. I ask a woman in a gray, military-like uniform where I can change money. “Follow me,” she says.

    But she doesn’t turn left, toward the airport’s exchange kiosk. Called cadecas, these government-run currency shops are the only legal way, along with banks, to swap your foreign money for Cuba’s tourist tender, the CUC. Instead, my guide turns right and only comes clean when we reach a quiet area at the top of an escalator. “The official rate is 87 for a hundred,” she whispers, meaning CUCs to dollars. “I’m giving you 90. So it’s a good deal for you.”

    I want to convert $500, and she doesn’t blink an eye. “Go in the men’s room and count your money out,” she instructs. “I’ll do the same in the ladies room.”

    The bathroom is crowded, with not one but two staff and the usual traffic of an airport in the evening. There’s no toilet paper. In an unlit stall I try counting to 25 while laying $20 bills on my knees. There’s an urgent knock, and under the door I see high heels. “I’m still counting,” I say.

    She’s back two minutes later and pushes her way into my stall. We trade stacks, count, and the tryst is over. For my $500, I get 450 CUCs, the currency that’s been required for the purchase of almost anything important in Cuba since 1994. CUCs aren’t paid to Cubans; islanders receive their wages in a different currency, the grubby national peso that features Che Guevara’s face, among others, but is worth just 1/25th as much as a CUC. Issued in shades of citrus and berry, the CUC—dollarized, tourist-friendly money—has for 21 years been the key to a better life in Cuba, as well as a stinging reminder of the difference between the haves and the have-nots. But that’s about to change: Cuba is going to kill the CUC. Described as a matter of fairness by President Raúl Castro, the end of the two-currency system is also the key to overhauling the uniquely incompetent and centrally planned chaos machine that is the Cuban economy.


  2. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE PRESS RELEASE: Cuba: Planning Meeting for Human Rights Dialogue – Office of the Spokesperson – Washington, DC – March 31, 2015
    United States and Cuban diplomatic delegations met today at the State Department to discuss the methodology, topics, and structure of a future human rights dialogue. The atmosphere of the meeting was professional, and there was broad agreement on the way forward for a future substantive dialogue, the timing and location of which will be determined through diplomatic channels. Each side raised concerns about human rights issues, and both sides expressed willingness to discuss a wide range of topics in future substantive talks.

  3. I’m a European, from a country very near Denmark, and I can’t remember hearing this story about the Danish student being killed in Havana. Europe is full of armchair soialists. and they think that CubaZuela is wonderful, with great leaders. They also admired the Soviet Union and the whole East Block system, and didn’t learn anything when that collapsed. Many of these socialist romantics work in the news business, so it’s not at all surprising if that story didn’t get very much space in the news…

  4. Dear N.O. and everybody,

    There’s sooo much more to be said about how too much evil in the world is perpetrated by preserving the status quo. I’m not a genius, it’s been said many times before, but it obviously needs to be said many more times…

  5. 18 years ago a Danish student peacefully walking along the street was gunned down in Havana by a soldier(s).

    Cuban authorities hid the body for a week from the family and said he had gone “missing”. Only good connections and diplomatic pressure let them know that their “missing” son was dead.

    Of course, it never made the news in Cuba. The soldier(s) name(s) were never made public or given to the family, and no justice has ever been done.

    I don’t know Joachim Løvschall, but he is one more of the psychotic dictator’s innocent victims whom we should never forget.

    Attention gullible tourists and armchair socialists. Many more tourists are victims of violence in Cuba than ever make it into the press.

    By many orders of magnitude.


  6. yskjs:

    Very true.

    Our ridiculous privacy laws protect psychopathic terrorists, suicidal psychopathic pilots, serial killers, rapists. robbers, and the general violent scum of society. These laws give a lot of work to lawyers and professors, who are happy raking in the money while millions die.

    The one thing they don’t protect is us.

  7. Today they’re talking about what Lufthansa knew or didn’t know. It’s really about much more than that, even much more than how the airline industry needs to improve.
    Everybody got defensive right away, with two statements: “This was one of those rare freak occurrences, an isolated incident”, and “Lufthansa has been so great for so long, how could this happen?”.
    There’s always the talk about cost-benefit, society functioning smoothly, employment. Some even say that collateral damage is a normal component one any life process.
    However, people are getting smarter, ever more aware that things don’t have to be like they’ve always been.
    Too many planes still don’t have available technology to prevent MH370 from happening again, and there are still too many people like the Castro Broz ruling.
    Tragedy shows us that the status quo isn’t good enough…

  8. Human rights? The USA is far from perfect. It could and should use its vast resources much better, but Cuba is much worse…

    Death is the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include biological aging (senescence), predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. Death has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to having a bond or affection to the person who has died, or having fear of death, necrophobia, anxiety, sorrow, grief, emotional pain, depression, sympathy, compassion, solitude, or saudade.

    In 2013, 54.9 million people died up from 47.5 million in 1990. The most common cause of human deaths in the world is heart disease, followed by stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases, and in the third place lower respiratory infections.
    Unnatural causes of death include suicide and homicide. From all causes, roughly 150,000 people die around the world each day. Of these, two thirds die directly or indirectly due to senescence, but in industrialized countries—such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany—the rate approaches 90%, i.e., nearly nine out of ten of all deaths are related to senescence.

    Physiological death is now seen as a process, more than an event: conditions once considered indicative of death are now reversible. Where in the process a dividing line is drawn between life and death depends on factors beyond the presence or absence of vital signs. In general, clinical death is neither necessary nor sufficient for a determination of legal death. A patient with working heart and lungs determined to be brain dead can be pronounced legally dead without clinical death occurring. As scientific knowledge and medicine advance, a precise medical definition of death becomes more problematic


    There are many anecdotal references to people being declared dead by physicians and then “coming back to life”, sometimes days later in their own coffin, or when embalming procedures are about to begin. From the mid-18th century onwards, there was an upsurge in the public’s fear of being mistakenly buried alive, and much debate about the uncertainty of the signs of death. Various suggestions were made to test for signs of life before burial, ranging from pouring vinegar and pepper into the corpse’s mouth to applying red hot pokers to the feet or into the rectum. Writing in 1895, the physician J.C. Ouseley claimed that as many as 2,700 people were buried prematurely each year in England and Wales, although others estimated the figure to be closer to 800.

    In cases of electric shock, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for an hour or longer can allow stunned nerves to recover, allowing an apparently dead person to survive. People found unconscious under icy water may survive if their faces are kept continuously cold until they arrive at an emergency room. This “diving response”, in which metabolic activity and oxygen requirements are minimal, is something humans share with cetaceans called the mammalian diving reflex.

    As medical technologies advance, ideas about when death occurs may have to be re-evaluated in light of the ability to restore a person to vitality after longer periods of apparent death (as happened when CPR and defibrillation showed that cessation of heartbeat is inadequate as a decisive indicator of death). The lack of electrical brain activity may not be enough to consider someone scientifically dead. Therefore, the concept of information-theoretic death has been suggested as a better means of defining when true death occurs, though the concept has few practical applications outside of the field of cryonics.

    There have been some scientific attempts to bring dead organisms back to life, but with limited success. In science fiction scenarios where such technology is readily available, real death is distinguished from reversible death.

  10. MIAMI HERALD: U.S. and Cuba to face off on human rights in Tuesday Washington meeting – By Mimi Whitefield

    The latest round in the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement gets under way Tuesday when the two countries meet in Washington to discuss the potentially divisive issue of human rights.

    A State Department spokesperson said the two sides will “discuss the methodology and structure of future human rights talks,” so no major developments are expected. But even getting agreement on the substance for future talks could prove difficult because the two countries have strikingly different views on what constitutes respect for human rights.
    The United States has long been critical of Cuba’s policy of jailing dissidents and activists for exercising basic civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and assembly, as well as its treatment of political prisoners.

    “This preliminary meeting reflects our continued focus on human rights and democratic principles in Cuba,” said the State Department spokesperson. “Human rights are, and will continue to be, a priority.”

    Cuba, on the other hand, tends to view human rights more from a prism of quality of life and has said its health activism around the world is an example of its concern for human rights. The Cubans also want the opportunity to discuss the United States’ human rights record and to bring up issues such as excessive use of force by American police officers, poverty, and racism in applying the death penalty.
    “These talks are an indication of Cuba’s willingness to address any topic with the U.S., despite our differences, based on equality and reciprocity,” Pedro Luis Pedroso, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry deputy director for multilateral affairs and international law, told reporters in Havana.

    But at the same time, he said, Cuba is “conscious of our profound differences with the government of the United States in terms of political systems, democracy, human rights and international law.”

  11. Sadness is one subject, but right now madness is on my mind:
    When systems are so weak and privacy laws so strong that mass murder is allowed to happen, it shows that mankind is better at hiding its head in the sand than any ostrich. Reality is so blinding and the thought of change so scary that we forget how disastrous it is not to change.
    So the Kims and the Castro Broz, Mugabe and El Ilegitimo of Vzla are allowed to rule for years and years.
    Will we ever learn? Can we?

  12. CUBAN PHOTO BOOK PROJECT: Cuba in pictures : Now & Before – by Karel Becerra – 52 days left

    We began in separate ways but with the same goal, show the reality and the effect of time -communism- in Cuba. For years we’ve been showing in social networks pre-communist pictures of streets, cars, buildings and shops Cuba, everything before 1959 . Then thousands of fans started to ask : How it looks today ? Do you have a picture ? We would like to compare. What a great idea! … and this is how we started. That is our dream. Take those old photos today, 60 years later, and turn them into a book: “Cuba Now & Before.”


  13. 14yMEDIO CUBA NEWS: An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) – by LUZ ESCOBAR
    As part of the campaign to demand freedom for the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” several artistic activities took place this Saturday at la Paja Recold, the studio of the band Porno para Ricardo.

    On the walls of the place were works by the graffiti artist who has been incarcerated since last December 25. El Sexto was arrested shortly before carrying out a performance that consisted of releasing in a public square two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul.” The crime that has been charged against him is contempt.

    Several friends from all over the world and human rights organizations have demanded his immediate release. Yesterday’s activities joined those demands for his freedom. Among the most important moments of the afternoon was the performance by Tania Bruguera of The Whisper of Tatlin which opened the studio’s microphones to the fifty attendees of the encounter to ask for – in a minute each – Danilo Maldonado’s liberty.

    The host band Porno para Ricardo, played the lead musical part with several songs from their repertoire. Subsequently rappers including El Opuesto, Maikel Extremo, Rapper Isaac and Lazaro Farise Noise appeared on stage. All demanded the release of the artist and demonstrated solidarity with his cause. Also a book was opened in order to gather signatures of support for the #FreeElSexto campaign. An option paralleling that already implemented on the digital platform Change.org and that is intended for those who do not have access to the Internet.

    The artist Tania Bruguera told 14ymedio she had attended the event, “Because I think this is a case of the violation of the artist’s rights.” “It is not right that an artist who did not even carry out the work should be made a prisoner,” she stressed. Bruguera is precluded from leaving Cuba and is in the midst of legal proceedings because of events arising from her attempt to organize a performance last December 30 in the Plaza of the Revolution.

    In spite of her delicate legal situation, the artist attended the event in order to offer her support to El Sexto’s cause. Because she says that “An artist that is in jail just for imagining a work and trying to make it, it is an injustice.” About the performance that the graffiti artist would have carried out, Bruguera points out that, “Public figures, whether politicians or celebrities, are likely to be criticized (…) they have to assume that people who do not have that power, they are able to make them aware of their discontent through humor and satire.”


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