Sunday, December 3, 2017

Everyday Cuba

‘In Cuba there’s a lot of solidarity, you feel relaxed’



NEW YORK — “I’ve never seen anything like it! It was very impressive to see how officials came to assist those who needed to evacuate from less secured homes,” Luisa Coxall told me when she came back from Cuba. She described how the revolutionary government there organized the massive evacuation of 1.7 million people before the devastating landfall of Hurricane Irma Sept. 9. Coxall is a Cuban-American from Brooklyn who was visiting relatives in Havana when the storm hit.

“Buses and trucks came to pick up people, along with their belongings, and they all knew where they were going,” she said. “They only have six television channels, but they kept people informed — calmly and accurately — at every stage of the hurricane.”

She described how the civil defense workers came “down to each block in the neighborhood.”

I met Coxall in 2015 when we both joined a march here to protest the cop killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island. She’s a hospital worker, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 for 26 years, who is now retired. This was her first extended visit back to Cuba since she came to the U.S. in 1966 as a child.

She said it was a revelation to see how working people in Cuba use their mass organizations — with the full support of their government — to advance their society and to mobilize to preserve human life when hurricanes or other natural disasters strike.

I said that this, along with the other accomplishments of the socialist revolution in Cuba, are living proof that working people can unite, organize, fight and transform ourselves as we participate in struggles. It’s the road workers and farmers in Cuba have been on since January 1959 when they took political power from the capitalist rulers and began building a society based on human solidarity.

She described other everyday experiences she witnessed during her stay that really had an impact on her. “I went to a dental clinic,” said Coxall. “Don’t expect to find a chair like the ones you see here in the United States, where they press a button and it moves up and down. No, they have to crank it up into position with a pedal. But the care was good, and it was free of charge.

“The doctor addresses you by first name, and with respect,” she said. “And they don’t lie to you about what you need to have done, because it’s not about money, they’re not going to charge you.”

Cubans don’t have medical insurance because health care is free and available to all.

“My sister got a beautiful set of new dentures for 20 Cuban pesos — less than one dollar!” she said, still in disbelief at the contrast with life under the capitalist profit system in the U.S.

“I saw a lot of solidarity. The neighbors look after each other, you feel relaxed,” she said, “You don’t have the shootings we have here. You can walk at night safely anywhere.”

“And I did,” she said with a smile.

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