How Things Should Be

Dmitri Prieto

Vaccination day in the Electrico sub-division. Photo: Caridad

Last weekend I had the opportunity to get together with Havana Times columnists Erasmo, Yusimi, Caridad, Irina, and Regina; as well an Isbel, the coordinator of a network called the Observatorio Critico.  We met in the outlying Electrico subdivision, the neighborhood where Erasmo lives.

I’ve been familiar with the Electrico for some years because some good friends of mine used to reside there.

Today almost all of them live in other countries because they decided to emigrate.

On this occasion, Erasmo had organized a community activity whereby dogs and cats would be vaccinated and a number of plants sowed to beautify the local environment.  Support also came from the Cuban Association for the Protection of Plants and Animals (ANIPLANT).

The Electrico is a place like many others in Havana and across Cuba.  It’s marked by five-story apartment buildings, large swathes of underemployed grasslands and few possibilities for local initiative.  This time, however, Erasmo’s project was to break with that logic and accomplish something good with the organized help of his friends.

Therefore, the use of a site was requested and approved by the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).  Erasmo then put up some flyers announcing the activity.  ANIPLANT sent its veterinarian, and the Observatorio Critico donated funds so that the participants could have a snack to eat and for the purchase of more vaccines for when the veterinarian ran out of what he brought.

By the way, this was not the first donation ever made by the Observatorio: a few days ago we sent some money (a much larger sum than what was spent in Electrico) for people injured by the earthquake in Haiti.  We even have a receipt for that donation.

By the end, nearly 200 dogs and one cat were vaccinated. Photo: Caridad

Since the dosages were administered for free in Electrico, a line formed made up of contented owners with their pets.  The “normal” way of getting vaccinations would have meant people paying out of their pockets, since the veterinarians make their living off of that.

Being a veterinarian can be quite lucrative profession in Cuba.  I know several of them who are good people, but there are others who think only of their businesses (be they legal or informal) and not of the animals.

But there was in fact a cost: the line could be cut by people bringing in street dogs for a vaccination.  A bunch of children in the neighborhood took charge of rounding them up so that they could be vaccinated.

It’s fantastic how Erasmo is able to involve children, who are sincerely learning to love nature and doing interesting and also valuable things for their community.  If somebody prefers (not me) the concept of “education in values,” this involves exactly that – though it’s more about feelings and supportive love, I would say.

We were also able to protect some trees that were recently planted by using cactuses; these will keep them from becoming the victims of ecological predators that are still so plentiful in that area.

Likewise, we carried to Erasmo’s mini-nursery a product of common property: organic fertilizer left by several cows on the road near where Erasmo had spotted them earlier. It was literally a sack of ordure (what we otherwise refer to as “shit,” since not everyone understands technical language in Cuba).

Thus, what some people consider garbage is converted into part of the well-being of the community.  In this instance, Erasmo will use the manure to reproduce more tree saplings that will be planted in Electrico and beyond the narrow limits of his neighborhood.

The veterinarian ended the day tired but happy with the scope of the action, and also with the conditions that were created.  By the end, nearly 200 dogs and one cat were vaccinated. Frankly, I don’t understand why a sole cat appeared.