‘Never Again’


Photo by Irina Echarry

A few days before learning of the news, I saw a photo in the most widely read newspaper in the country.

It was of a male, who from his physique appeared to be a poorly fed boy, and from his face seemed to have very little of a future before him.

What caught my attention was a shackle he was wearing, resembling one they used to make slaves wear here in Cuba prior to the mid-19th century.  In this picture, however, it was a person who was mentally ill.

The title was large, and with the forceful heading that read “Never Again,” referring in this case to the horrendous conditions of human beings locked in pre-revolutionary Cuba’s main asylum: Mazorra.

When I saw a certain title in Havana Times, revealing deaths at this psychiatric hospital, I thought it was from some diary entry by one my colleagues; perhaps they were alluding to the situation at that center before the revolutionary victory. I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to read it, but at that very instant I heard a report on the same issue on nothing less than the national TV news.

My mouth is still hanging wide open, as if I were a shocked cartoon character.

I don’t think I’m the only person with their mouth —or ears— in that position.  However, these remain open not out of shock, but from impatient waiting for more information.

Plenty of News on the Cuban Doctors in Haiti

The news about Cuban doctors in Haiti has fallen like snow in Siberia, blanketing the airwaves. The number of Cuban reporters there is also bewildering; for the first time this added up to more than three for a non-sporting event.

This incident in Haiti has been a grand event, incidentally. We all take advantage of the latest misfortune of black and poor people to make our Samaritan flair shine. All of us continue to announce —SHOUTING— our “benevolent actions,” and in this we Cubans have not lagged behind.

The news here in Cuba is not about the Haitians, their problems or —fortunately— those individuals still being dug out alive.  The news here is about Cuban doctors, Cuban medicine and the new Cuban hospitals in Haiti.

In short, like the rest of the press, banks and world figures, we too are taking advantage of the trying situation in Haiti, only that in our case it is to make our advanced ideology stand out.

And suddenly, for the well-being of some, time has stopped.  For as long as possible, we are prevented from having to remember, painfully, that the dead of Mazorra are real, that they are our dead, and that someone must speak up about them, or rather about those responsible for their deaths.

The official news statement, delivered more than 15 days ago, mentioned an investigation that was then underway.  I don’t doubt it…an investigation.  I want the true culprits to pay, but not by the death penalty of course (I am firmly against that type of hypocritical and opportunistic sentence).

The true culprits are not necessarily those who found closest to the mentally ill victims, though of course they also share a great deal of the responsibility.  But the reality is that no one else has said anything.

More than ever, the news of Haiti consumes our few newspapers.  The rest of us submerge ourselves in our daily problems, those that exist, those that we ourselves invent, or those they make us invent or those that others invent.

No one seems to care about a handful of old crazy people dead from the cold or hunger or sorrow.  Nor very important were Haiti’s poor and crazy people, those who were dying of hunger, heat, illnesses and sadness. They were not news – at least not until the earth tremor hit.

The news speaks, but it hardly ever tells the truth.  There are earthquakes that hide other trembling.

One thought on “‘Never Again’

  • Your last two sentences say it all! Whether Port-au-Prince or Habana, New York or Paris, those at the margins of society, those who are far from the centers of power and status, can expect little pity, even less sympathy. Ironically, we must not look for the Truth in the news, but rather in fiction.

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