A Moment of Patriotism

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Cuban doctor. Photo: Sergio Leyva

HAVANA TIMES, March 30 — I’m rarely happy. But despite having gotten a tooth taken out, and even though I’m still under the influence of drugs, I’m pleased to have been attended by “Dr. K.”

I’m writing about him not because he asked me to, but because I somehow find it satisfying to talk about the good work done by a specialist. His dexterity and fine skills allowed him to perform the procedure as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

This wasn’t the first time he attended to me, but on other occasions the appointments were for routine matters; either cleanings (these have a scientific name that I don’t remember) or simple check-ups.

Being a good observer, I noted his deference to everyone, even though the chairs in the clinic where he works are in terrible condition, the materials there are in short supply and he has to work with other people who don’t love their profession like he does.

None of this seems to matter to him, plus one doesn’t have to always whine about everything.

Perhaps my happiness is marked because, during this weekend of dental recovery, I met other people who love their professions. Though they might be better paid in other fields, they continue to do their jobs the best they can and with a smile – even though they don’t get trips abroad or receive their salaries in hard currency or get an occasional bag full of toiletries that some jobs provide.

It’s not conformism, but I don’t think it’s resignation either.

Alberto, for example, is a veterinarian. Although the conditions in the clinic where he works aren’t optimal, and it suffers from all the bureaucracy of any workplace, he doesn’t resign himself to the death of any of his four-legged patients simply because he’s frustrated or can’t spend a weekend at the Varadero beach resort.

Similarly, Annia is a lawyer who works for a law firm (in civil law), but she doesn’t go through life with the same bitterness as the rest of her colleagues.

She does all that she can to make time to go to the beauty parlor and to get out to parties. She also makes sure that every time a battered or divorced woman comes into her office, she gives them all the necessary explanations so that they don’t feel threatened by her authority.

If there’s a slogan that’s true on this island and is repeated to the point of exhaustion, it’s that “We are Cuba.” And it’s true: We are Cuba – despite everything.

Despite the bureaucracy, the incompetent, the repressors, the censors, the police, the criminals, the sweetened or the demonic image that is projected of Cuba, I’m proud of my nationality.

I believe — no, I’m sure — that with everyone I’ve mentioned here, as well as with so many others, if they had the opportunity to change the course of their lives and thus avoid the daily narrowness and miseries they endure here, they would do so with the same optimism with which they’ve come to terms with the controversial Cuba of today.



Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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4 thoughts on “A Moment of Patriotism

  • As the great Wilhelm Reich once said, one’s work life has to be as satisfying as one’s personal life, otherwise life is out of balance, and this tends to promote bitterness, dissatisfacion and negativity in both realms. I guess the secret is how to find work which is intrinsicly satisfying. If not, then it is time to move on. By the way, how did Fidel enter into this question? Seems to be some sort of obsession, like King Charles’s head was to Mr. Dick in Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield!” I’m sure by now Fidel has seen the error of his ways back in 1962. Also, as we head towards our final roundup we tend to see the world more and more in terms of some sort of Armagedden. In reality, the world will go on. When it ends, it will go out with a wimper, not a bang!

  • Are you kidding John? Over and over again, Fidel writes in his Reflexiones how the world is going to end soon due to nuclear winter, or climate change or some other US-sponsored disaster. The very same Fidel who urged the Soviets to launch a nuclear first strike against Americans now is anti-nuclear? He fails to realize that the will to survive is not left to the exclusive domain of Cuba. Americans love their children too. No one more so than an American president understands the finality of nuclear proliferation. Yes, John, Fidel would have you and his syncophants believe that his is the wisdom to lead us away from the precipice of destruction. His wisdom can’t keep his buildings from falling down, let alone save the world.

  • “Despite what Fidel wants us to believe, we will survive.”

    Suppose you tell us what Fidel wants us to believe.

  • Maya Angelou, a famous african-american poet, author and public activist wrote a book called “Why the Caged Bird Sings”. Her most famous work. The book speaks to the condition that many african-americans, despite the stifling oppression of racism and poverty, still managed to excel in all manners of human endeavor. Ulitmately ascending to the highest and most powerful political office in the world. While Cubans have yet to face the same level of depravity and debasement faced by African-americans, it is no surprise that Cubans can manage to smile and enjoy their work. It is a function of the human condition I suppose. Despite what Fidel wants us to believe, we will survive.

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