Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mounting Cholera?

Mounting Cholera? / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

A few days from the announced celebration of that mournful date, July
26th, in the province of Guantánamo, rumors continue to be increasingly
stronger that there are several cases of cholera in eastern Cuba, plus
it is even being said that there have been several deaths due to the
disease. Since the situation was reported in the independent press, the
official press is maintaining its usual silence on matters that may
damage the image of the system and affect foreign tourism on the Island.
The presence of the disease in Cuban territory is not officially
confirmed or denied, nor is its impact and potential expansion, except
for a brief report in the media on Tuesday. The lack of information and
misinformation, though they might seem the same, are not, and are also a
kind of permanent epidemic among us.

Earlier today, just in case, I turned on my TV to listen to the morning
news, but reports from eastern Cuba were only about street activities to
entertain children during vacation, that is, the news they were showing
were of kids in parks before the cameras, doing the same thing that they
do every day in neighborhoods without any group organizing them: riding
home-made scooters, running and playing. There was also news about the
awards received by the "paintings" by the Communist Party leadership and
other government officials in the region, now graduates and employers,
and that a company received special recognition for having met the
economic indicators: more diplomas, kisses and smiles. Nothing about

Meanwhile, some who became aware of the rumor continue to worry, and
there are signs that evidence that something is fishy. A neighbor told
me that bus transportation to the eastern region had been curtailed, and
she was told that her ticket to travel to Santiago de Cuba in late July
would be canceled, though they did not give explanations about the
causes of such termination. A doctor friend, who knows my aversion to
boiled water, called me to warn me emphatically that I should not drink
water directly from the faucet "for anything in the world", as I usually
do, while, on television, commercial spots are being aired warning of
the need to wash hands frequently, "rub your palms thoroughly with soap
and water, rub between your fingers and under nails …" as if your lives
depended on it. Do you think our lives really depend on washing our hands?

And, as often happens among us, the rumor is growing in exponential
proportion to the lack of official information about the case, and some
say that there are cholera cases in Havana, in tandem with our
ever-popular and endemic dengue fever, which is alarming in a
particularly dirty city, with thousands of leaks in its outdated water
and sewage systems, its plethora of landfills and slums, where over two
million people live, amid the wettest summer on record in the last decade.

It would not be surprising, however, that this new exaggeration, greatly
publicized by one or another "enemy of the Cuban people" at the service
of foreign interests, might be confirmed in the course of the next few
weeks if things get out of control. After all, there are thousands of
Cuban doctors who have traveled to Haiti to assist the campaign against
the cholera epidemic in that country, who have returned to Cuba,
reinstating themselves in family and social life without even going
through the isolation of quarantine. Under such circumstances, one could
say that cholera took its time in making its presence known in Cuba. For
now, many of us have begun to take extreme hygienic measures, while some
others shrug their shoulders carelessly and in disbelief: what's not
announced, won't really happen, at least, not unless we are the ones to
die in the process.

At the time of this post, I found out that at least 6 deaths have been
attributed to the dengue fever in Havana, and there are several cholera

Translated by Norma Whiting

July 9 2012


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