Mounting Cholera? / Miriam Celaya

Photo taken from Cubadebate

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 cholera.

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 cases.

Translated by Norma Whiting

July 9 2012