My Collapsing Family Doctor’s Office

Isbel Diaz Torres

The doctor’s office and the dead Ceiba to the right.

HAVANA TIMES — My favorite ceiba tree died because of a doctor’s office that’s now falling apart. Every day I see how the facility i losing a window or watch a piece of roofing falling off – without the San Agustín community lifting a finger to save it.

This is when I look to the side and see the cadaver of my old ceiba tree, now reduced to ashes by the arsonists on the block. This is when I recall the injustice of its murder, now more unjustified than ever.

That legendary tree was cut down at the request of the doctor of the family clinic. She and her husband were afraid that one day one of the heavy branches of that giant ceiba — full of vigor — might fall on the office and destroy it.

The mighty tree was pruned down to the point of leaving it like an obelisk. First they cut the branch that was suspended over the office, after which they cut off the one on the other side, for balance, then another and another. All of them came down with a huge crash, all in order to save the building.

The ceiba never hurt that little two story building; nevertheless, the office is now destroyed.

The work of hundreds of years of nature was changed for this mediocre structure, with its carbon-copy design and the community lacking any sense of ownership.

Of course it was about four years ago that the doctor and her husband were reassigned and left the office. Both of them had studied with me in elementary school. Roberto (the husband) was my friend and sat beside me in class. We were model students.

The doctor had also been in my class. She was a very intelligent but fragile girl, with thick glasses. My friends from elementary school killed the ceiba of my life, only later to leave and abandon the place that they were supposedly protecting. That was terrible, don’t you agree?

No one knows who built this clinic. People remember that it was one of those marathon projects of the revolution, constructed sometime around 1985. That was when they began building these structures everywhere, in a big hurry so that they would be completed by July 26. In this way they could “present them to Fidel on his ‘birthday.’” Simply for that reason.

Anyway…after the doctor and her husband left, the vice president of the Popular Council of St. Augustine, moved in along with his family. They lived there for over two years. He’s a guy who’s unknown to everyone since he’s not originally from the neighborhood.

When he left, the home/office just sat there. People who needed it weren’t allowed to fix it up so that they could live there. They had to simply stand by and watch how people were slowly stealing the doors, windows, the toilet, sink, light fixtures, electrical outlets and everything else.

I went in to take some pictures of how it looks these days; it was the day after the roof collapsed. I could have been the victim of an accident, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

My ceiba died so that today we would have this potential garbage dump in the middle of the park. The office is a potential pile of rubble now. The people of the community walk by, take a look, and wander on their way.
Photos by Isbel Diaz Torres


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

4 thoughts on “My Collapsing Family Doctor’s Office

  • Love your story, Isbel. The comments made below your article sicken me. Destruction is a worldwide problem and those MOST responsible for the poor shape that Cuba is in are those who have made the comments. Hostile exiles and evil politicians in the US have insisted on maintaining a cruel embargo that has been strangling Cuba for OVER 50 YEARS, while the majority of US citizens have no idea that Cuba even exists.

    Let’s get back to discussing your article. Unfortunately, mankind puts itself before nature. And the US is the biggest threat to creatures and greenery inhabiting the earth, as they continue to drill for oil in oeans so each person can have a car and drive it without thought of conservation (many are gas guzzling SUVs) and there is no such thing as ride sharing. Did they learn their lesson from the oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago? Out of sight, out of mind.

    And let’s talk about the destruction of architecture in the US, starting with all of the beautiful Victorian architecture destroyed in New York City to be replaced by taller structures in order to maximize financial profit. Penn Station is one example, not to mention the hundreds of ornate mansions and thousands of brownstones.

    Here’s another example of the destruction of the work of artisans that were repeatedly destroyed throughout the US because the average person had no interest in preserving the artistry in architecture:

    Cuba, although it has its problems, is far ahead of the US in terms of caring about one another and its wildlife. Isbel, come to New York and watch as people pass by those who are living on the sooty, cold streets without a thought given to their suffering. And remember my sister, Heather, who died as a result of the intentional lack of protection of 9/11 clean-up workers. And listen to what Romney has to say, keeping in mind that those who commented below your article are avid supporters of him. And remember that you have been separated from those you love because they felt forced to flee the island, not because they were selfish and didn’t want to share their toys like the exiles of the 1960s, but because they had to.

  • Isbel, Your article can be seen as interpreting the magnificent and grand ceiba tree as a metaphor for Cuba, and the doctor’s office for the revolution.

    The revolution cut off every branch of Cuba that was not in their interests at the time, because they thought these would do damage. Consequently the country became like the office – languishing in ruins.

    That’s it exactly!

  • It’s a painful story in this article, more painful knowing that cases like this are repeated by the thousands throughout the country, under the eyes of “revolutionaries” who have ruled authoritatively in Cuba for over half a century.

  • I’m so sad and sorry to see our Cuba like Isbel’s ceiba tree. But that’s the reality.

    I recently saw pictures of my old school in Cuba on Facebook, and it was terribly painful for me to see it in such poor condition, similar to Isbel’s doctor’s office.

    My first thought was what I could do to help.

    It pains me to see our Cuba without its shoots, without branches.

    But those who can change it don’t want to because they want to stay in power at all costs. That ambition and selfishness of a few is what ended the ceiba. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to the country.

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