An Accident and Diabetes (Part 3)

By Osmel Almaguer

Tree and Castle, Cojimar, Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Tree and Castle, Cojimar, Havana. Photo: Caridad

Among everything that was talked about while waiting to see the doctor, I still remember the woman who accompanied her husband and commented, “It’s a good thing my husband is diabetic, if only for the food they give him…” That struck me.

It’s true that the extra food allowance helps a great deal, even though it’s only four and a half pounds of powdered milk and two half-chickens a month; it’s that otherwise we wouldn’t get that.  For me, though, the most important thing was having my illness diagnosed.

Finally, after three hours, my wait bore fruit.  The doors that had allowed so many people step through had opened for me.  I was received by Conrado, an average looking man except for the clothes he wore.  Instead of the usual doctors’ coat, he was dressed in a santería “iyabó.”

In Afro-Cuban religion, believers who are “becoming holy” have to dress entirely in white, and shave and cover their head for one year.  Over that time they cannot be called by their given name, but by “iyabó.”

Before the 1990s we were more rigid in all senses; Conrado would never have been able to appear in a doctor’s office laden with necklaces and dressed in an Obbatalá, which is the attire of the principal orisha (saint) of that religion.

That is something similar to the ancient Greeks where everyone respected and also made sacrifices to Zeus, the father of the generation of the “Olympian Gods.”

There was Conrado, in his outfit, standing in front of me; and although I respect and hold in regard everyone who believes in something external – myself being a believer in everything internal, and a religious atheist – I confess that this didn’t give me a good impression.

These days, with ever increasing problems, folkloric religions have been commercialized a great deal.  Now anyone can be holy and anyone can be an oracle, with all of them getting paid a lot for their services.

Something similar is happening among doctors. In fact, almost all of them who provide direct services suggest or demand tips or gifts.

Conrado seemed to be that type, and the treatment he provided me corroborated my suspicion.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.