Biological preserve, and a shocking question
Yesterday morning I got up at six to jog in the Vedado, where I saw many people going to work and children in their red uniforms going to school. Since my geographic sense is very bad, I got lost and asked someone the way back to my hotel. Occasional security persons are seen; one can tell, as the men wear the same type of suit, and the women wear the same dark miniskirt with black fishnets.
Note that for now, I am trying to avoid stating opinions, just recording what happens. You are welcome to write opinions in the Comments.
The tour went out to the Las Terrazas preserve (there is a website). These are hills where the Spanish and French had deforested completely for ranching and coffee. In 1968 the government began to plant trees again, over 5,000 hectares. People were settled to live there in a sustainable way with the forest. The planting was done by Cubans and by “international brigades.” They planted trees from other countries, including teak, mahogany, and eucalyptus. In order to plant the trees, they first cut terraces into the hillside (we saw photos.) Today the forest is so thick that in most places the terraces cannot be seen. (I will have photos next week.) The hills also show many native pines and palms. One has to imagine that there were no trees here before, and it was all reforested with low-tech methods.
Now a small community lives in the forest in a sustainable way (1,000 people). There are all kinds of animals, such as 64 types of anolis lizard (I saw one, a fat green gecko on a post) and 131 bird species (kite, heron, we saw in lake; and turkey buzzards). Also many beautiful plants, such as mariposa, white ginger, hibiscus (all of which we saw).The place is a designated UNESCO reserve. We had a meal here from local pork and vegetables; we agreed it was our best meal so far in Cuba.
The community has one doctor, whom we met. The doctor said no one has ever died of lack of medication. He said he can stabilize emergencies and take patients to a hospital 15 minutes away. He said that the emphasis is on preventive care. The breastfeeding rate is 100%, and of course the vaccination rates are 100%. All patients in the reserve receive close attention, especially pregnant mothers, who go to a special birthing center at 36 weeks. He showed us his office, and his laboratory, a room the size of a closet, but did not show any equipment. He showed us “natural medicines” that he uses. A tour member asked, if there is one thing he would get if the embargo is lifted, what would it be? He said, an X-ray machine.
The same day, we also visited in Pinar del Rio a group that cares for Downs Syndrome students who make art. The group was formed by parents and volunteers. I did not take photos here, although others did. The students are teenagers. They work side by side with staff members, who are recent university graduates and a reading teacher. The staff make drawings, which the students use to make plates for silk screen; then they put colors on the plates in interesting ways. They appear well organized and trained; the facility is considered a model for Cuba. I purchased an art piece called “Dreamer.” After the printing, there was music and the students danced, with each other and us. They are expert dancers. According to the director, they may date and marry.
One of the staff volunteers had a T-shirt showing Juanes la Vida. I asked him, who is Juanes la Vida?
His eyes widened in total shock. The other staff also could not believe that I have no idea who is this phenomenal Columbian rock artist. (If you know, please enlighten me.)
On the way back, the tour guide said Cubans get all American TV programs such as Gray’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. However they cannot read books by Daino Chaviano or other Cuban-Americans writing about Cuba. She said she has seen American TV news such as Fox News, but only on hotel TVs.
Then she told us that we get tickets Thursday to the Buena Vista Social Club franchise group in Havana. Everyone went crazy to hear about this addition to the tour. Even I have heard of Buena Vista Social Club.