We must first respect ourselves

Veronica Fernandez

View of Viñales, Pinar del Rio. Photo: Sayuri Correa

Last week I had to go to Alamar (a neighborhood located to the east of Havana Bay).  After waiting for more than an hour for the route 26 bus, which runs between that community and Cojimar (also located to the east of the capital), I decided to make the trip on foot, crossing over a bridge that joins these two areas.

I hadn’t taken this path for some time, but I thought it would be good to take a walk and clear my mind by enjoying the landscape around where the river flows out to the sea.  I set off on my journey in excellent spirits, but after I had made it halfway there, I had to turn around and quickly go back.

It turned out that almost two blocks before getting to the bridge, an excess of all types of garbage and debris had been strewn along the entire shore, completely covering the sand.  Even the path that people would normally take through this area was blanketed.

In addition to the massive amount of trash that extended up and down the whole coast, there were rotting fish covered with flies and maggots an other animals all around.

I was left perplexed.  In all the years I’ve lived in Cojimar and walked through the area, I’d never seen anything like this.  It was so sickening and repugnant that many people did the same thing as me, they veered off the path.  Some were cursing and I saw two young pregnant women begin to vomit, which was completely understandable.

The need to take care of the environment is constantly reported on in the media.  Programs are featured on climatic change and what we are calling for at the world level to stop the degradation that we have all caused to mother earth.  But there’s a big difference between what’s being said and what’s being done.

We are also told about the widespread epidemics that have affected or can affect the planet, as well as the hygienic-health measures used to prevent the spread of these diseases.  However, we have to ask whether it’s possible to sustain or maintain a population healthy when these things occur.

How far can our infestation index go with an environment like the one I’ve just described?  Who’s demanding this, and who’s to blame?  Where is the leadership needed to deal with this?  Can Cuba be a medical power while such things are occurring?

We have offered the world our health system through our doctors serving in difficult internationalists missions in remote and isolated places around the planet.  However, a lot is left to be desired when we stumble on situations in our own country like I did.

Above all, I think we should be an example to ourselves.  We must demonstrate to the world what we’re able to do from within.  We must respect ourselves so that they respect us, and I also think that our people deserve to be respected enough to be able go on walks where the streets, roads and beaches are maintained free of garbage and filth.  This too is called health.