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dimanche 28 juin 2009

About the Five Good Friends I had come to see

Day 3 in Havana. Early Morning.

As usual, another night of deep sleep. During the week with the Indians, the sleep was so disturbed, waking up at 2 am and then again at 4 and sleep until 7 am. But in Miami and here in Havana, the sleep comes easily and well.

I have come to visit five women, I am sure that European tourists would immediately have a picture of me, in some centre of nocturnal entertainment, entwined in the arms of a shapely mulatta! No these are the five people, who have kept in touch with me and have kept the fire of my love for Cuba going during my absence.

ALP was a professor at the Univesity in the department of Religion and had gone abraod on some educational missions(believe it or not, she was once sent to Sao Tome and Principe!). Grown up in the pre revolutionary era of bourgeoisie, she gladly made the transition, but bad luck had tracked her all her life. Her only son, an artist as well as a doctor, went on a mission to Cabo Verde islands and did not return, which is an unforgivable crime by Cuban government standards. Her husband was a well known professor of International Affairs, who died a couple of years ago. She is left here in the island with her son away, unable to come and see her and she is not given visa to visit him, a large apartment by the malecon. Yesterday I went to her house around 10 am in the morning and we were talking and talking until 5 pm.

Don’t be away so long, my friends are saying to me, we have so much to discuss. Like the people who work with the Indians, who ask me for a n international perspective on their work, cubans in the island would like to know my opinion about their personal life as well as the political changes which are constantly taking place in the country

CGM is a professor of psychology and a good friend of mine for a long time, like the above. She is very content to live here in Cuba and has no intention to migrate or seek her fortune elsewhere and tries to live well within her means, within the salary allotted to her. She was once married to a well known painter, so when you enter her house, the large works of art stares at you. Her only daughter, graduated from University of Havana, studying about Autism and then went on to the University in Spain, where she has distinguished herself with her doctorate (cum laude). Proud of her daughter, her country , she has done excellent investigations into one of the neglected aspects of Diabetes, the psychological aspeects of Sex and reproduction in patients with Diabetes and as such is invited to all parts of the world to give talks and present papers. Just this last month, with two colleagues from the Institute whichis attached to the Institute of Endocrinology they were in Sao Paolo Brasil. She travels two to three times a year, with about a month or so per year or two in Spain. I have never heard a single negative word about life in Cuba.

LS is my mother, my cuban mother who has facilitated hours of intellectual stimulation fo rme. She holds a high and respected position in the Ministry of Culture. She has introduced me to writers and artists, always provides me the names of the cuban ambassadors to the coutnries I am travelling to and keeps me in touch with the literary life in Cuba. She is also widely travelled but prefers her quiet life, with its necessary official duties, in a small apartment in Vedado, surrounded by original artworks including Guayasamin, whom she counted, among many well known artists, as a friend.

AA is an investigator at the Institute of Endocrinology in the Departmentof Psychology and we immediately took a liking to each other, when we met at the meeting of Assocaition of latin American Socieites of Diabetes in November 2007. She is a good correspondent and has kept me in touch with the tunes and tides of this society. In her early thirties, she has a son, well integrated into the educational system of Cuba. She is from a seaside town nearby. She has been married to an American journalist who has lived in Cuba for more than ten years. So meet the two of them for dinner is a pleasure indeed, to hear various viewpoints about life in Cuba. He is never vitrioliic about Cuba or USA, where his parents still live. They were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. They also introduced me to ArteChef, and this time we plan to try another new restaurant La Torre. She has aquiline spanish features, and carries the proud name of one of the great cuban revolutionaries of the 19th century. She gets to travel to the USA with her husband once in a year or two and once in a while attends a conference abroad.

The last woman I came to see, LL, is a story in fortitude and determination. In her early thirties, she was struck with Hodgkins Lymphoma in her teens, and underwent treatment here in Havana. That did not stop her from completing her studies here at the university majoring in Psychology and also going to Lima, Peru to complete her Master’s degree. A clever investigator, I would very much like to collaborate with her, since she studies the psychological effects on people suffering Endocrine disorders. I look forward to a good conversation with her, in which we could discuss plans for her Doctoral studies.

So you can understand why my life in Cuba is one of sheer pleasure. A Cuban bourgeoisie woman who was on the plane from Miami to Nassau going on vacation to Atlantis, asked me, how is your life in Cuba, I answered, I have spent some of the best years of my life in Cuba, it was the epoca de oro for me. The solidarity of the Cuban people, the sheer nature of their affection and this is the country I have the best and the longest discourses about all and every thing in life. (France is a possibility but not until I become proficient in French!)

Then there are many others, humble and holding responsible position, like Mr J who is a mechanic in the Food Production and Distribution branch of one governmental department, who sees the ice making and grain producing machines are working in order: Mrs M, daughter of a once brilliant ophthalmologist, who is the director of the Museum here and who has visited all the major museums of the world, to givejust two examples in Havana.

It is a pity that I cannot visit Baracoa before I leave for France. That s a minefield of affections fo rme. My adopted daughter Claudia lives there, like I was separated from my own father during my growng up days, she is from me. But we talk on the phone, and will make all efforts to see each other.

So, dear friends of mine from all parts of the world, you wont hear the pathetic cries of material shortages of the third world, nor of the restrictions placed on us by international economic meltdown, but only good news about the possibilities that are available to an enquiring mind: just this afternoon, I hope to meet, a doctor who was in charge of pupblic health and prevention and is now working in Panama and Rdominicana; a metaphysical poet; the ambassador I met in Hanoi… What else? I shall just wait… Havana to me is always an unending feast… and I don’t need Mojitos or Daiquiries!