As I write this post, recent rains have flooded the sewer system and left the countless potholes that dot the streets of the Alamar neighborhood filled with water.
The combination of rain and heat often becomes synonymous with mosquitoes and dengue fever.
Word in the street has it that there are two hospitals full of sick people suffering from that virus and that several people have died, though I can’t confirm any of this.
I can only say that a police car comes through here frequently to clear the way for a huge truck that blankets the entire neighborhood in smoke.
The fumigation campaign is carried out by workers dressed in gray, who many call “the mosquitoes” because they have the task of exterminating that carrier of the virus and thus containing the disease.
Fumigators in Alamar have to work harder, going up and down all the buildings’ countless stairs and dealing with numbers of garages, animal pens and workshops that area residents have had to build in the common areas to cope with overcrowding.
For several days the obnoxious smell of burnt oil has carpeted everything from one side of the neighborhood to the other.
This past weekend, from in my stairwell I could hear the racket of the fumigation machines, which sounded close by.
I had clothes hanging on the line and the lunch half done when an exterminator came to my door.
With his noisy portable machine, he came inside. But when he saw that a window hadn’t been closed, the crisis began.
He blew up saying that it was a lack of respect and that I did not value his work. He then tried to frighten me by saying that they weren’t going to fumigate my apartment but would instead give me a fine.
I tried to explain that there was no way mosquitoes could be in my house, simply because we usually didn’t have water and that we’d already been sick.
He still didn’t listen to me, he just yelled so that the neighbors would find out about my lack of consideration. I came close to losing my own temper and starting to yell at him to leave my apartment and to take his crazy self with him.
We were unable to talk, but finally the smoke flooded everything, and the neighbors who were whispering to each other hushed – contentedly.
The exterminator did his job well; he invaded my living space and started issuing orders without giving reasons, while I had to keep quiet before the possibility of a repudiation campaign orchestrated by the obedient neighbors.
Many people in Cuba fail to understand the gap between social and private space, be it in relation to physical space or individual decision environments. The attitude of the fumigator was a consequence of this.
I wanted to scream that I didn’t care if I died of hemorrhagic dengue fever, but I kept my mouth shut. In any case, nothing was going to save me from the feeling of being overwhelmed and without rights, even within the four walls of where I live.