Friday, 5 February 2010

Haiti, Camagüey and Cuba

Cubans from the province of Camaguey have been very close to Haitians since, at the end of the 18th Century, many slave drivers escaped Haiti because of the slave revolution there. They arrived in Cuba with slaves, settling in the east of Cuba. From 1913 to 1925, more than 500,000 Haitian slaves arrived at Camagüey province. Many places took Haitian names, like: Caballón, Okay, Ouanamimthe and Haiti Chiquito. More Haitians arrived in Cuba in the 1920s, through the ports of Santiago de Cuba, Nipe and Nuevitas.

The slaves arriving in Nuevitas were distributed in trains, in the sugar cane compartments, and they were allocated as 'luggage'. Based in settlements with sugar cane workers, they brought a reservoir of Haitian culture. They kept up traditions, ways of dressing, alimentary habits, dances and the practice of religious cults. Nowadays, the rural community of Caobita is home to a Camagueyan center of Haitian culture where in the months of March and October, every year, Haitian traditions and museum artefacts are shown to represent the Haitian presence in Camaguey.

The Cuban presence in Haiti corresponds to a cultural tradition where the values of both countries are mixed. When the earthquake took place in Haiti on 12 January 2010, Cuban help from Camaguey was sent immediately. Cuban doctors were in Haiti before the earthquake giving free medical assistance to Haitian people. The very same day of the catastrophe Camaguey sent 37 doctors to Haiti.

In the middle of the devastation, Cuban doctors set up a hospital, helping all the injured that arrived there. These brave doctors, men and women, perform their jobs without looking for "filmstar" recognition, remembering that Che Guevara was a doctor as well. Unlike the US and the UN, they do not come with weapons, they are an army of humanity, generosity and solidarity in the service of people in need.

Only Cuban doctors work nights, they are not afraid of delinquents. They know Haitian people and they also know they are safe. Cuban doctors set up 6 physiotherapy rooms and they expect to set up three more. Physiotherapy is free and they hope that as people hear about it, more and more would come for the treatment.

Cuban epidemiologists have been sent to vaccinate people to avoid illnesses spreading. 20,000 people have been vaccinated already.

A team of psychologists and psychiatrists has been sent to help children and youngsters to overcome the consequences of the earthquake. They will create sociocultural and recreational places for their mental well-being.

There are 938 Cuban doctors in Haiti, half of them in the capital Port-au-Prince. 50,000 people have been seen by Cuban doctors and also doctors that studied in ELAM (the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba). Haitian doctors that studied in Cuba went quickly to help their people. By the end of the week, building brigades will finish building five more Integral Diagnosis Centers and they hope to have ten. Despite being a poor country, Cuba has sent ten tonnes of food and medicines to Haiti.

Solidarity is everything in Cuba. It is part of the human values of Cubans. This is the 'new man' Che Guevara spoke of and created.