Back from Cuba: The Difference is Humanity
May 1, 2015 Leave a comment
As I left Cuba two days ago the last message*** I saw, on the airport terminal building, was PATRIA ES HUMANIDAD — “homeland is humanity.” When I woke up my first morning back in the States, thoughts of “humanity” were on my mind.
Cuba has survived because of its humanity.
There are lots of examples and I hope to touch on them as I blog more, or talk with folks, or do presentations, but for now I’ll just talk about doctors, storms, and the “special period.” Cuba is not perfect, I don’t mean to imply that, but it does have some special strengths.
Most of us know about the Cuban doctors. They’ve been a great form of “humanitarian foreign aid” to places around the world. Cuban doctors have helped with epidemics of ebola and other diseases, with natural disasters such as hurricanes (President Bush refused their help for Katrina), and with areas suffering from lack of access to healthcare. They’ve educated their own and thousands of other doctors from around the world, including the United States. The homeland of their medical system is humanity.
When a terrible storm is coming, they have a system for evacuating people so they survive, and they even include people’s beloved pets and are starting to make more accommodations for beloved belongings. There is a much higher survival rate in Cuba than in neighboring Latin American or North American countries.
The special period was the time in the 1990s after their big trading partner the Soviet Union collapsed. Overnight things Cubans took for granted were no longer available. Someone described the special period as like our Great Depression times four, or more!
During the special period, although things were very hard, nobody starved. They lost a lot of excess weight and sure missed the usual variety of foods, but they were not malnourished. The people themselves and the government saw to that. With their rations, people took care of their families. The fact that a Cuban’s “family” includes a lot of adopted uncles and aunties, parents, grandparents, and children, helped a lot. Actually, diseases like diabetes and hypertension were reduced. I’ve also heard about similar effects in other tough times, like during World War II in Europe. That’s something to think about, isn’t it? People can sometimes have more physical health and human connection during periods of material deprivation.
IN MY NEXT BLOG, I expect to list the rest of the questions about Cuba that I gathered on my yellow pad before and during the trip. But I may talk about Prop 13 — as a quick note, consider joining me and others as we take a day trip to Sacramento to “Reform Prop 13.” I’m glad I’m back from Cuba in time to be at the kickoff! Click HERE. (See why I’m glad on my blog post Dream Legacy: Help Fix Prop 13 in California.)
*** About messages at the airport or anywhere, personally, I prefer seeing billboards with inspiring quotations rather than commercial billboards about products for sale, such as Coca Cola, electronics, and politicians. I didn’t see a single sign with “Coca-Cola” on it. (I hope I follow through on my plan to count how many times Coca-Cola appears when I walk a single commercial block in my Grand Lake neighborhood in Oakland.) I see that fact as one of the “collateral benefits” of the US embargo. I want to be careful, however, to point out that the embargo — or bloque/blockade as the Cubans refer to it — has had onerous effects on the people of Cuba. For more than 54 years.