She fell into a deep well and somehow survived
By Ivett de las Mercedes
HAVANA TIMES — Everybody knows who she is in Cuba’s western Artemisa province as well as in Pinar del Rio. Sulay Enamorado Izaguirre is 36 years old, but when she was just four, she fell down a well that was 300 feet deep and less than two feet in diameter.
HT: Falling down such a deep well is an unforgettable experience. What happened?
Sulay Enamorado: It was March 20, 1985. My grandmother was working at what used to be the Comandante Pinares cooperative, now the Antonio Maceo Credit and Services Cooperative, located at the entrance to Candelaria. The majority of women used to go to work with their children because there wasn’t any day care back then. We used to live far-away from the Cooperative. The well wasn’t covered that day, and I wasn’t paying attention and fell inside. My grandmother tells me that at snack-time, they began searching for me everywhere, until they finally thought of the well as a last resort and were still unsure. They then began to call the firemen.
HT: Do you remember the moment you fell down?
SE: I don’t remember when or how I fell down exactly, but I do remember that there was water but it didn’t cover my whole body. When I found myself in that darkness, I began to cry, scream and call out for my grandmother. I was really cold and that became worse as time drew on. I fell asleep at times. I was in there for over ten hours.
HT: What do you think about the firemen’s actions to get you out of there and save your life?
SE: The firemen were very brave and efficient. There were a lot of people watching on and as the news spread, more people turned up. The police cordoned off the area, a funeral car and some forensic experts also came; they didn’t think I was still alive. The firemen asked for a mirror, they could make out my red coat with the sun’s reflection. They threw down a rope with a hook on the end which, after several attempts, caught onto the rolled hem of my trousers.
They lifted me up feet first. They say that I moved my head and everybody shouted: she’s alive! They laid me out on a stretcher at the polyclinic, they took off my wet clothes and gave me oxygen. They began to warm me up with several lamps because I was very cold. I had bruises on my arms, slight cuts in my hands and some blows to my back. Nothing was fractured.
I asked for milk because I was really hungry. They then transferred me to the San Cristobal hospital in the province of Artemisa. I talked about a toad which had been keeping me company in the well the whole time I was in there. I was in the hospital for a few days.
HT: Physical phenomena played a very important role. Do you think they helped you?
SE: Yes, back then there was a lot of drought, it hardly rained, this meant that there was a low level of ground water, there was also wind that far down and that had an impact on my body, my clothes ballooned out and we filled the diameter of the tunnel and that reduced my speed and stopped me from changing position as I fell down, the air kept me alive. At any other time, there wouldn’t have been an air flow and my fall would have lethal.
HT: However, many people believe that it was a miracle.
SE: I was very lucky, I don’t know anybody else in Cuba who has survived falling down a well. I think that God was with me the whole time. I could have had hypoglycemia or have died because of the cold. I thank him and I’ll always be grateful to the Revolution and the firemen in Pinar del Rio, they knew how to act calmly, with perseverance and intelligence and also my family, doctors, nurses and neighbors.
HT: Have you told your daughters?
SE: I don’t talk to them about this, it’s a very sad story even though it has a happy ending, thinking that something like that could happen to them scares the life out of me. I know that they know what happened because I’ve been interviewed by some journalists and they were there, a documentary was also made about me and there is a book called “Challenging death” by Roberto Valdes Martinez, about the Cuban firepeople’s rescues. I was lucky to survive that event, but it might not have been like that and that is a sad memory for any family.
HT: Where do you work?
SE: At a cigar factory. I enjoy what I do and I get on well with my workmates. They also call me “the miraculous one”, the girl from the well or the one with two birthdays, and in some way or another I have become an unforgettable woman.