February 1, 2004 - After taking a week off to
recuperate from the cold that I caught in Cuba; from the
cold weather in Maryland; to prepare my classes for the
new semester; and to review the photos I took during my
sojourn in Camagüey, I'm ready to write.
I was in Camagüey, I was able to keep a happy
disposition in front of my relatives and friends at all
times, when in truth I was somewhat shocked by much of
what I saw: The appalling contrasts between what
was available for tourists and Cubans who had access to
American dollars, and what was available for everyone
else in Cuba. Most Cubans walk or ride bicycles
(which I call "equal opportunity
transportation"). The woman who drove the
Cubanito taxi in which I rode is a physicist. A
friend of mine, a plastic surgeon, books art shows for
few verbalize their desperation, I was amazed to find
out that most are taking medicine for anxiety or
depression. To the Cubans, their visitors are
oases in the desert. Late one night, my cousin Adriana
came to the apartment where I was staying. She was
in tears, and said that they just took her 2-month old
granddaughter to the hospital because she would not stop
vomiting. She came to see me because, she said,
"you give me energy and I will feel better."
Adriana was caught in an emotional bind: hospitals
no longer could be trusted except as a last resort --
nothing was sterile, many necessary medicines were not
available, and facilities were deteriorating.
Doctors recommended patients leave as soon as
possible. I was grateful that I was able to soothe
Adriana, and that the baby was back at home in a few
is a clinic for tourists and Cubans with dollars across
the plaza. It is clean, sterile and well-stocked
with medicines and medical devices. Most Cubans
cannot afford their aspirin.
Cuban woman in doorway
Many homes in Camagüey
are in drastic need of
repair, but materials
are not available.