March 14, 2020
The entire world is in the midst of the global pandemic crisis for Corona Virus. People are dying and the hysteria and panic are running wild in the modern world.
Yet, here, in my tranquil little casita on the hill, reggaeton music drifts up from downstairs, familiar voices greet each other along the rocky path that passes in front of my house, the dogs are barking, laughter is still in the air, and life goes on as it has everyday for nearly 50 years.
Ironically, Trinidad, Cuba had the first three reported cases in Cuba. The owner of a casa particular heard one of her Italian guests coughing and called the international clinic, and he was immediately removed, as were all that he traveled with, and put into quarantine in Havana. Everyone who had contact with those Italians were tested, and the city went on alert. Suddenly, within a few days, life here has changed in some ways, but not in others. Casa de Musicas all over Cuba and all public state run music, theatre and public venues are being closed down until further notice. Tests are being done in the schools on the children, state workers are being tested, and nurses are going door to door to educate people and check any one with suspicious symptoms. So far, as of today, there have only been 4 reported in Cuba. Of course, that’s not to say that there are not hundreds of unreported cases, but there is no huge panic happening here as of now. The bread man still passes with his whistle and a big basket of fresh bread. The chloro man is selling more chloro than ever with restaurants, dance schools and everyone wanting chloro to disinfect their hands and homes. The flower man is still on the corner of Colon and Guiterrez selling beautiful carefully created bouquets. The shoe shiner is still sitting behind him shining shoes for the men while the women buy flowers. A few people are wearing masks, and there is a lot of banter in the streets with everyone joking about Corona Virus. The overall feeling here is that Cuba will be fine. People do not believe it will hit hard here, nor are they overly concerned. The general consensus is that Cuba is prepared and ready and that it is one of the best places in the world to be right now. That might be true. It might not. There is no real way to know.
As an American, it is hard to imagine that to be true knowing the extreme lack of medial supplies and resources, and having seen the state of the hospitals. It seems hard to imagine that Cuba will actually be able to handle a serious outbreak and so hopefully their efforts to control it will be effective because no matter what the Cubans think, if Corona gets a hold here, many people will die in their homes with lack of care, of that I am sure. I have my own fears and reservations about what to do right now.. to stay or to go. To stay and weather the next 50 days or so to see what happens, and hunker down, stay home more and protect myself as much as possible, or to go home to try to help my family deal with it all and be in the midst of total insanity. My friends are sending me pictures from stores in Colorado and Florida with totally bare shelves. The panic and hysteria in the USA seem pretty real and pretty insane.
It is such a powerful experience to be here right now with the Cuban people. I feel so comforted and safe in their presence and as weird as it sounds, I feel much safer here than I would in the USA. When there is no food to buy, and an armed population ready to go, things there can become very frightening very fast and I would not at all be surprised if the USA were to turn into a vigilantes on the street kind of situation quickly. People aren’t going out, everyone is on high fear alert, events are being canceled, public places shut down, an economic crash is in full swing, and Americans are poorly equipped emotionally and mentally to face difficult times. They are mostly spoiled and think they should always have what they want and need at a moment’s notice. In Cuba, if there is no toilet paper or food, people work it out together with each other helping and finding what they need. The mentality of hurting others or causing social unrest to get what they want doesn’t really exist in the same way. I am very afraid for what might be coming, and I pray things calm down soon or that some kind of cure can be found.