Quisicuaba, or the ‘Revolutionary Calling’ To Look After the Poor

The official press celebrates with “hope” the work of the project in a new report on begging

In the project’s dining room this Friday, they served spaghetti without cheese / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 April 2024 — In the second part of a report on beggars in Cuba, in which the authorities recognize that the State is not able to deal with the increasing number of homeless people, the official press celebrates with “hope” the work of the Cabildo Quisicuaba project. Its director, Enrique Alemán, who mixes spiritualism and Afro-Cuban religions with activism in favor of the regime, says that he offers meals to more than 4,000 “wanderers” and “vulnerable” people a day in a dining room in Havana. If this is true, it would mean feeding three people per minute for 24 hours each day.

It’s not the first time that the Government has praised Quisicuaba’s “social” work. Every time the media is there, even the international media like Reuters, they offer the same numbers.

Nor is it explained where the food and the resources to serve them come from

What Alemán does not mention, in a video released by Cubadebate, is that a year ago his soup kitchen on Maloja Street, in Central Havana, had, according to an article from the Swiss Embassy in Cuba, half as many people as now. The increase in homeless people, beggars or “people with wandering behaviors,” as the regime calls them, is a reality that the Government can no longer hide. Nor is it explained where the food and the resources to serve them come from.

A resident of Nuevo Vedado who once asked Quisicuaba for help told 14ymedio that not everything is rosy in the project. “I live alone and I’m now 76 years old, so I talked to a social worker to see if I could get any help. He told me about Quisicuaba and managed the delivery of a lunch,” he recalls.

“When the food arrived, it was disgusting. My dogs didn’t even like it. I remember that they brought it to me in a bike-taxi, although I think that now they no longer send couriers and you have to go to Centro Havana. I never asked for it again,” he says.

The first part of the report on beggars in Cuba gave an account of the problem: 39% of those who live in the Centers for the Care of Wandering People have not reached the age of 60; 60% sold their home and do not have the resources to join society; 86% are men, 30% have some disability – including 25% with psychiatric disorders – and 31% “have high patterns of consumption of alcoholic beverages.”

In the face of the unrealizable proposal to pass the ball to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) or other traditional organizations, Quisicuaba – with its double religious and “social” character – strives to ensure that the regime does not look foolish. A few years ago, the project inaugurated an “assisted living center” in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, in an abandoned rural high school.

Now, according to Alemán, 113 people reside there, and they hope to receive another 24 soon

Now, according to Alemán, 113 people reside there, and they hope to receive another 24 soon. All were previously taken care of in the Havana dining room, and after the opening of the “camp” they arrived at the facilities.

“Many of the patients who are here were alcoholics, for example, and therefore we try to create the family atmosphere that they do not have elsewhere. Here we have a simple regulation that is based on the person’s own will to want to get ahead. We give occupational therapy and work to make them feel important,” the director of the place, Yadelkis Hernández Morales, explains to Cubadebate.

Quisicuaba counts on the help that the Government and local administrations do not give to their own state shelters. “One of our fundamental premises lies in self-sufficiency, including our social dining room. To do this, we request idle land from agriculture, and we now produce coal for cooking food. In addition, we harvest bananas, sweet potatoes, malanga, pumpkin, cassava and beans. We also have an organoponic garden and a livestock module,” says Hernández. The contribution of the regime does not represent a great economic sacrifice, but it allows them to take part of the credit for the functioning of Quisicuaba.

The place also has a medical team, as well as staff from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Likewise, the medicines shown in the Cubadebate audiovisual are imported, although Quisicuaba does not state where the funds come from, since it is a non-profit project.

Alpidio Alonso, also showed up and applauded the “deeply cultural work” of the project

The Cuban authorities, who support the initiative, often show their faces in the center and give promotion to Alemán, who has also highlighted the “revolutionary vocation” of Quisicuaba. This same Thursday, a retinue made up of Abel Prieto and other members of the jury of the Casa de las Américas Award – foreign intellectuals – arrived at the Havana headquarters. The Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso, also showed up and applauded the “deeply cultural work” of the project.

Also, last December Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel toured the Quisicuaba facilities in San Antonio, to “learn how the Quisicuaba Project and several agencies of the Central State Administration, Cuban civil society organizations, the Party and the Government have worked together since 2020 to make this noble work a reality.”

Despite the Government’s attempt to whitewash its image, the homeless in Cuba are far from disappearing. A report by this newspaper reports the situation of residents of Havana who, like many on the Island, try to survive without the help of relatives abroad.

“Every week I get more and more acquaintances in Cuba asking me to send them money, because they don’t have children who send it to them. But I can’t deal with everyone; I have my children there too,” said a man from Havana living in Miami who doesn’t understand how those who don’t receive remittances can survive.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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