Yanelys Nunez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES – I know the Ariel* that was kicked out of Havana University, the Ariel who stood next to me and other friends at the Municipal Court when I complained about my arbitrary dismissal from Revolucion y Cultura magazine, where I worked from 2012 to 2016.
I know the Ariel who held a hunger strike in front of the National Institute of Oncology demanding medicine for his sister; the Ariel who was sentenced to a year in prison after being victim to several provocations and harassment inflicted on him by Cuban State Security; the Ariel who held a second hunger strike for 16 days so he could try and get his physical freedom back. The Ariel who Amnesty International declared a prisoner of conscience. I know the wise, strong, capable Ariel, the man who is fascinated by Nature, the combative Ariel.
But, I didn’t know Ariel the farmer. Ariel the grower of coffee, sugar cane and fruit trees. The Ariel who doesn’t frown for a single second when looking after the large variety of animals on his farm. I didn’t know the Ariel who lives up on the magical mountain.
But, I was recently able to accompany him. I could work a little by his side. I could feel his concern for a sick little goat. I could memorize his small ticks. His routine. The time for a fruit shake. The time to give the chickens their medicine. The time to give the kid his milk in a bottle. The time when the mares would come up to the door looking for their food. The time when cows would crowd together to drink water. The time when Ariel would say: ti titititii tititi to call the birds and feed them corn.
Ariel doesn’t stop. The farm was affected by the strong winds caused by the tornado that hit Regla, Guanabacoa and other Havana neighborhoods. He only has a few moments at the dinner table to talk about why he won’t be voting in the upcoming February 24th referendum or about why Cuba doesn’t have any fish.
Ariel constantly warns us that we should look at the ground, that there are small animals. Cats, chickens, even lizards that he regularly feeds.
Ariel teaches us how to strip the leaves off the main rib off a palm quickly, because the cows are anxiously waiting.
I watched how Ariel patched up a new-born chick. His hands were fearless. There were so steady it seemed he had no nerves. And I also saw how the chick survived the following day after his surgery.
I’m sure Ariel would not like me talking about him as if he were a hero. Or that this article is too sugarcoated. (Forgive me in advance) But, Ariel deserves all the praise in the world and a lot more help than he already has.
If only this article serves for others to go and lend a helping hand with his project. Vinales is experiencing a strange moment in its history. It has the kind of tourism that makes me suspicious. Spaces like Ariel’s give us a little hope. Preserving the fauna and flora in such a biologically rich territory is a complex job and even more so when people don’t see the economic potential of it (without physical effort) in the short-term.
*I’m referring to PhD Ariel Ruiz Urquiola.