Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 April 2020 — I’m annoyed. Anger rises in my throat. Today I have learned that the coronavirus knocked on the door of another friend, this time a Cuban poet living in Madrid. After years of experiencing repression and censorship within the Island, Spain has been for her a terrain where she no longer had to look over her shoulder to see if the political police were following her. I hope she gets better, but the news of his situation has hit us hard.
A couple of days ago I began to look more frequently for testimonies of overcoming and survival that would help me in these dark hours, but not ones contaminated with the gruesome triumphalism of the Cuban press. That false optimism is of no use to me, because it is not impregnated with the desire to find a way out of this dark tunnel that the pandemic has created, but rather tries to score, all the time, a political gain from the emergency.
On watching official television, you may think that we live in California or Sao Paulo, due to the amount of reporting dedicated to them. The flow of negative news about the situation in other countries is staggering. With no ethics or humanism whatsoever, the broadcasters of prime time newscast even seem to gloat at the rise in victims in Madrid or Milan, something they attribute “to capitalism,” even if the scientific community points to a diminutive coronavirus.
To make matters worse, from the initial arrogance of believing that the virus was not going to affect us in Cuba as it does in other countries, officialdom has moved towards the stage of searching for the holy grail of healing. And having exhausted the hoax of the supposed effectiveness of the interferon alfa 2B is produced on the Island, that have moved on to a homeopathic solution. It would be laughable if it were not so dramatic, because we have already reached eight dead and 320 infected, according to official figures.
In a recent press conference, Francisco Durán, national director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, promised that Prenvengho-Vir, a preventive homeopathic medicine, will begin to be applied on the Island as a “prophylactic measure” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The doctor stressed that this product helps prevent different conditions such as influenza, respiratory diseases, dengue, and emerging viral diseases or infections.
There are many serious researchers who consider homeopathy a false therapy. Although in our universities they even teach it and our health system includes it in therapeutic guides, all this is done without a scientific endorsement. Right now, speaking out against homeopathy in the Cuban Academy of Medicine is practically looking for a political problem.
In the current situation, when it is taking so long to raise awareness about the need to maintain social isolation, it seems dangerous to me to speak of prophylactic homeopathic therapy. “Don’t worry if in a few days we have a little drop,” a retiree in my building said when I went to throw out the trash today. “This is the greatest, you take it and it protects you from dengue or the flu,” he assured me. I ran scared before he wanted to make me try some concoction.
When I returned, I remembered that Sundays are cleaning days at home, whether or not we are in quarantine. But today, plans to wash, mop the floor, and give the kitchen a once over were put off until further notice. The water supply problem has gotten worse and we have to save every drop, so cleaning was reduced to the stove, a broom over the floor, and a brief swiping of dust from the furniture.
The few informal vendors that haunt the neighborhood no longer want to enter buildings. They advertise their merchandise from the street and when someone asks them to come upstairs they refuse. Today, from a window on the 14th floor, Reinaldo yelled at the top of his lungs at an informal onion vendor who was walking down the street. The shout served to guarantee our meals will be seasoned and incidentally proved to us that Reinaldo’s lung capacity is still good.
The applause at nine o’clock at night has been gradually perverted. What started in Cuba as a citizen initiative, heir to other similar ones in Italy and Spain, has ended up hijacked by officialdom. It is not surprising, but already in our neighborhood, newly voices, recently raised, try to impose political slogans on the ovation, drown the “thank you” dedicated to the doctors with cheers for the Revolution and Díaz-Canel. Regrettable.
So today, at nine o’clock at night, I will choose to recite some verses. On behalf of my sick poet friend in Madrid. For my neighbor who believes in the strength of homeopathic drops, I will have to invoke the complete Vademecum.