By Safie M. Gonzalez
HAVANA TIMES – If there’s one person I’ve admired for a long time now, it’s my neighbor Mariana. She has a moving story and she inspired me to write this article. She is almost 70 years old and she lost her mother just two years ago, after taking care of her full-time for over 15 years, when her mother lost both of her legs to diabetes.
Mariana was a Historian and you just have to touch upon an issue that is related to this subject for her to burst with joy and get excited. But Mariana had to retire early to look after her sick mother, as her wages weren’t enough to keep the house and pay for special care for her mother, because she was now bed-ridden and needed it.
Even so, she found a way to get some part-time work. She would clean a nearby house twice a week, she washed and ironed clothes for people and that’s how she managed to make up for some basic needs, like food and cleaning products.
When her mother passed away, Mariana was diagnosed with a severe heart problem, so she mustn’t do anything too strenuous nor walk for long periods of time. However, Mariana lives alone, she didn’t have any children and that means that her survival depends on her alone. Her apartment is falling to pieces and when it rains, it is wetter inside than it is outside, but even with all of this, she still has a smile on her face and continues to fight, not only for herself, but also to help those even more in need.
She stands in long lines so she can buy food and also at the pharmacy where she isn’t even able to get a hold of the medicines she needs for her heart, most of the time.
This story of my friend and neighbor Mariana could be any Cuban’s story, but it is a lot more painful to see her live such a sacrificed life, sick and without any extra help. Her pension is insufficient for the basics and she doesn’t have any relatives living in another country to top up a card so she can buy in the government’s dollar stores. She ends up walking all over Havana a lot of the time, searching for the cheapest sales.
Knowing her story and experiencing it so close is something that makes me shudder and admire her a great deal. She doesn’t know she’s the lead of this story, that she might be just another Cuban, but I am very proud to write about her and share her with all of you who are reading me.