Friday, July 24, 2015

Santiago Hides Its Indigents

Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada
Posted on July 23, 2015

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago, 23 July 2015 – The builders
hurry to give the last touches to building projects, and the communal
brigades obsessively clean the streets. A few days before the
celebration of its fifth centennial, the city of Santiago is bustling.
The imminent arrival of the delegations to the ceremony for the Assault
on the Moncada Barracks has also caused the local authorities to gather
up the many vagrants of the historic center.

The psychiatric institutions of the city have established monitoring
services for the areas surrounding Cespedes Park in order to proceed
with the detention of the mentally ill and homeless or those who beg
near the tourist destinations. "Everything must be clean," explains one
of the members of a medical brigade that handles such tasks.

For those who reside in the city of Santiago it is evident that
something is missing from the landscape of the so-called "golden
kilometer" where the first houses, established in 1515, and the Holy
Basilica are located. Absent are those figures, often scrawny and in
dirty clothes, who stretch out their hands or display a prescription so
that the passersby will give them "some help to live."

The cathedral entrance is one of the busiest places for those displaced
people who, with a figure of Saint Lazarus, a candle and a little plate,
spend the days waiting for parishioners to throw them some coins. Now
they are not even seen, due to having been confined in hospital wards
until the more than 4,000 guests of the festivities leave.

Regina Lobaina, a nurse at the Gustavo Machin Psychiatric Hospital,
confirms to 14ymedio the hospitalization of the vagabonds and explains
that although "many have family and receive aid from provincial social
assistance, poor living conditions force them to beg on the more
affluent streets."

However, not only the destitute have been removed from the "family
portrait" that is being prepared for the city's anniversary. Those who
gather raw materials in the vicinity of downtown have been warned "not
to appear" until the week concludes. Bernardo, retired from the Ministry
of the Interior, is one of them. He picks up cans in parks, bars and
public places because his pension is not enough, but recently they have
"knocked down his business," he explains.

The facilities of the Train Terminal have also been "cleaned" of
indigents. Lourdes often takes shelter there, but recently has searched
for another roof under which to spend the night "until all this is
over." Her house was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and
she says she has slept in all kinds of places, including the provincial
Party headquarters. "My children are in the Shelter for Homeless
Children because I cannot have them with me," she adds.

Lourdes says she "has been lucky" because at least she has not been
confined. "I prefer the street even though it is hard because a hospital
room is worse," she asserts while she gathers her belongings in a bag
that years ago lost its handles and zipper. Bernardo, Lourdes and the
other indigents are superfluous to the showcase of the fifth centennial
of Santiago de Cuba which is preparing to be shown off to journalists
and authorities.

Translated by MLK

Source: Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada
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