Solidarity, Love and Despair

By Xiomara Reinoso Gomez

Xiomara with her children.
Xiomara with her children.

HAVANA TIMES — “The socialist bloc has collapsed! The Soviet Union has disintegrated!” These were the kinds of remarks the medical personnel at the hospital were making. I wasn’t paying any attention to them. My two-month-old child had been hospitalized for diarrhea and, at the gastroenterology ward, he had caught a bacterial infection that had landed him in intensive care.

The doctor had told me that, if they couldn’t manage to find a vein for a transfusion and administering antibiotics in less than six hours, my son would die. Nothing else mattered to me in this desperate situation.

Finally, after poking his tiny body with a needle 39 times, they managed to channel a vein. But the danger wasn’t over: we had to wait an additional six hours to see how his body reacted to the treatment. I came close to losing my head. Luckily, everything worked out.

I barely had any contact with my family. We could only communicate through a pane of glass, making gestures and telling each other the essential things by reading each other’s lips. The only thing we spoke about was the child’s condition, I didn’t know about anything happening outside the hospital.

A few days later, my baby was discharged and prescribed a basic diet for four months. For those of you who don’t remember Cuba’s “basic diet,” it is a food preparation with green plantains, cassava, garlic, onion, peppers and beef (or chicken, if you can’t find the beef). As I was heading out of the intensive care unit, one of the nurses told me I could go get the ingredients at the hospital for a week. She was going to do me this favor so I had more time to find the ingredients myself.

I thanked her (and I am grateful to her to this day), but I walked out of there thinking: “How silly! It’ll be easier for me to buy the ingredients myself and do it at home.” What’s more, I had my old Russian blender. What else could I possibly need?

When I got to my neighborhood, I went directly to the market. I’d been away from home for fifteen days and my fridge was empty and the pots idling. I went directly to the preserves kiosk, my mind set on throwing together some food quickly and….my goodness, all of the shelves, absolutely all of them, were empty!

I asked a lady there what had happened. She gave me a surprised look. She probably thought I was from Mars. “They came and took everything.”

I was petrified. The words of the Apocalypse came to mind. We were indeed facing a great catastrophe, but not the one foretold by the biblical prophecy.

I looked at the child I was holding and thought of my 12-year-old daughter. I couldn’t help but cry.

The next day, I went to the produce market and all of the stands were empty, all except one. A large crowd of people were waiting for a truck to unload a shipment of cassava, shoving each other around violently. Then I remembered the nurse who had kindly offered me help.

Where had the products in the markets gone? Was that also being brought over from the Soviet Union? That was the beginning of the Special Period…just the beginning.

There are those who say another crisis is in store for us, but I’m no longer worried about it. My kids have grown up to be adults and, after so many such crises, I’m no longer afraid of anything.

10 thoughts on “Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union

  • You Bob are now going to be condemned as that worst of all things:

  • John: absolutely Cubans embrace the free market. The street / left hand market / black market is totally free market and appears to me to be equivalent in size or possibly even larger than the government market. Go to Cuba and you will see for yourself.

    Your statements are confusing. Do you think that the US loosening of trade restrictions with Cuba is a bad thing?

    BTW, do you even know what a “junk bond” is? I have a good amount of them in my portfolio. And they were not sold to me by a salesman, I purposely selected them because of the yield.

  • Cubans are embracing FEC ?
    When did they set up the stock exchange in Havana and where are all the junk bond salesmen ?
    You seem to think that the Cuban people. having fought off the attempt to force FEC upon them for 54 miserable years, will now suddenly have a change of heart and now that the embargo (and with it the US war on the revolution) might end ?
    Given that in the U.S. through the wonders of the “market place, the top 1% now own about 90% of all the wealth in the U.S.” , I don’t think the well-informed people of Cuba will now embrace that sort of economic inequality.
    They’ve already been there and done that.

  • Thank you for describing what apparently was the one success in your life – hence being memorable. But, you were proven to be wrong.
    Don’t fool yourself by thinking from afar that health and education are better in Cuba than they are in the UK. I have experience of both. I am not criticizing the medical professionals of Cuba, but the conditions under which they work. Hospitals which are visibly crumbling with broken windows and missing door handles and a grave shortage of the drugs they require for their patients – and the US embargo does not affect drugs.
    In the UK it took Winston Churchill to return to power as Prime Minister in 1951, to end food rationing, the points system for food and clothing and to end the requirement for citizens to carry the Identity Cards so beloved by the Attlee Labour Government. Remember the Police could stop you in the street and demand your Identity Card even although you were going about your lawful business.
    “At the heart of our belief is the principle of freedom, under a rule of law. Freedom gives a man room to breathe, to take responsibility, to make his own decisions and to chart his own course. Remove a man’s freedom and you dwarf the individual, you devalue his conscience and you demoralise him.”
    The Castro family regime chose to remove the possibility of freedom for the people of Cuba and the consequences are as described in the quotation I have given.
    You can now thank your lucky stars that the UK did not become part of that appalling Communist Empire – the Soviet Union! They operated like all communist powers under policies of repression – Hungary 1956, Prague 1968.
    Eventually Soviet communism rotted from within and we can only pray that in due course a similar rot will free the people of Cuba!

  • Forcibly reinstalling free enterprise? Cubans are embracing it wholeheartedly. They are of the opinion that change is not proceeding fast enough!

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