Doing a lot with little – health care in Cuba

Although Cuba lies less than 100 miles from the United States, we Americans tend to know far less about the island nation than about almost any other country in our hemisphere. Only since 2014 has the United States begun to allow its citizens to travel directly to Cuba and has opened official diplomatic relations, although direct trade still remains blocked.

Cuba’s health care system has been touted as providing universal access to primary care services, whose goals are promoting health and preventing disease as well as providing free medical education to a veritable army of health care workers. Less well known are the quality and standards of their surgical services.

Thirty U.S. surgeons recently spent a week in Havana to learn about Cuban health care. Participants on the trip responded to an invitation from the American College of Surgeons, although we funded the trip ourselves. We met with physicians at every level of the health care system, from primary care physicians, medical school faculty, trauma surgeons, general/oncologic surgeons, minimally invasive surgeons, officers in the Cuban Surgery Society, ministers of health, and representatives of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples.

Although the Cuban government is a centralized, one-party state that follows the Marxist-Leninist ideology, every individual with whom we met answered our many questions with apparent candor. Perhaps our easy rapport was based to some degree on our common profession and our shared commitment to patient care. Although they were clearly proud of the quality of their free education and medical care, they were also quick to admit the shortcomings in their system: widespread poverty, shortages of food and advanced pharmaceuticals, and old medical facilities. We were not restricted in any way from moving around Havana or speaking with anyone, although our free time was admittedly limited because our busy schedule was crammed with at least two visits per day with the groups listed above.

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How I danced through Cuba

You may ask yourself why someone would choose to travel to an island in the Caribbean that is ruled by a communist regime, seemingly stuck in a time capsule with little to no communication to the outside world. Yes, a holiday in a country with a confusing dual currency, rationed food, and little or no internet may not sound like comfort, but oh boy is your opinion going to change after my first-hand experience.

When I arrived in Cuba I quickly discovered where its beauty lies. Like a heady mojito, a delicious mix of Caribbean flavors combined with the nostalgia of yesteryears, the magic lies in its resilience.

In the evenings the city plazas filled up with traditionally dressed locals that swung to the music, laughing and playing children, old grannies that quietly watched the world go by from their crumbling colonial residences. I enjoyed cruising in the iconic classic cars past images of Ché & Fidel through the streets of La Habana while observing its proud people going through daily rigors. The Revolution, as Fidel once said, is not yet over.

t sunset, I would sit on the Malecon waterfront and listen to the rhythms of salsa and tapping feet as a group of locals’ right behind me was dancing their blues away. A young Cubano invited me to dance, and at first, I was hesitant and felt like a beginner compared to everyone around me but as we moved our feet around, he smoothly led me into the dance. In this moment the rhythm of Salsa took over and just like that, I experienced the real Cuban way of life!

In the following weeks, I traveled through Cuba’s beautiful countryside and gazed at sugarcane & tobacco plantations, I walked through historic cities with marvelous Spanish colonial architecture and visited refurbished museums and bookstores. But my favorite was dancing at every Casa de la Musica and taking Salsa lessons at a local club. I stayed with locals and drank more mojitos than I can remember. I swam in emerald green waters at beaches with white sand and unspoiled natural beauty and met friendly locals who improved my Spanish with patience and ease.

I can definitely say that Cuba was a magical experience and that now is the best time to go and see for yourself before things change! It’s like no place else on earth! Viva Cuba! Viva la Revolution!

Justine Mfulama,

May 21, 2017

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Cuba and U.S. to Study Coral Reefs

Havana, May 19.- Scientists from Cuba and the United States started a joint expedition to study the deep coral reefs surrounding the Caribbean island, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (CITMA) reported on Thursday.

The collaboration is part of the Biannual Working Plan under the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for the Preservation and Management of Protected Marine Areas.

The agreement was signed in Havana on November 18, 2015, between the CITMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service under the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The expedition, which started on Wednesday, will take place on board the scientific ship Walton Smith and will conclude on June 13.

Its objective is to study the extension of Cuba’s deep coral reefs and compare their state of preservation and physical, genetic and ecological connectivity.

The project was designed by Cuban institutions like the National Aquarium, the Institute of Sciences of the Sea and the CITMA’s National Protected Areas Institute, and by U.S. counterparts such as the NOAA and the Florida Atlantic University.

According to the CITMA, the expedition will allow experts from the two countries to carry out joint research works and exchange experiences to pave the way for future research and to boost bilateral academic collaboration. (Prensa Latina)

Radio Cadena Agramonte, May 19, 2017

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Cuban students to pay tribute to Marti on his death anniversary

Havana, Cuba, May 19.- A giant camping  and a vigil was held last night in Dos Rios, the site of the fall in combat of José Martí, the Apostle of Cuban Independence, on the occasion of the 122nd anniversary of that painful event, on May 19, 1895.

Yulieski Tamayo Verdecia, president of the José Martí Pioneers Organization in Granma, told the Cuban News Agency that pioneers from nine municipalities of the province as well as from all over the country, followers of ideas and the example of the Apostle,  participated in this homage.

He said that during the afternoon of Thursday the pioneers had an exchange with a historian about what happened on May 19 and the previous days.

He pointed out that the activity, called Camping with the Master, covered actions of the pioneer explorers movement, and in the evening the students carried out a vigil, dedicated to the National Hero, in that place, belonging to the municipality of Jiguaní.

Of the hundreds of participants, a total of 27 pioneers were finalists of the contest on Marti´s life, including three from Granma, eight from Villa Clara, two from Pinar del Rio, the same number from Camagüey, Matanzas, Havana, Guantanamo, Las Tunas, Holguín and one of Mayabeque and Santiago de Cuba.

They and all the participants in the camp, together with thousands of people, will attend this the national act for the anniversary of the physical loss of the Apostle, near the obelisk that indicates the exact place where the courageous patriot, creator of the Revolutionary Party Cuban and the newspaper Patria, and main organizer of the war of 1895, fell in combat. (ACN)

Radio Cadena Agramonte, May 19, 2017

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Peculiar Festival Held to Protect Cuban Land Crabs

Baracoa, Cuba, May 20 (Prensa Latina) Food, arts and environmental education merge today here in the Festival of Crabs, a peculiar initiative that has been held for nine years in this city to protect Cuban crabs.

The festival opened with an environmental message on the need to protect blue land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi), included in the food chain of the local population and commonly found in coconut growing in this municipality of northeastern Cuba.

Thousands of people in Baracoa attended the festival in the rural community of La Alegria, in which games, food contests and other activities are held and highly enjoyed by participants.

Plastic arts, literature, dance and audiovisual presentations are also included in the festival, during the exhibitions and artistic performances made by amateurs from this community and neighboring places.

The Festivals of Crabs are also held in other countries, as Colombia and Sweden, and it was first hosted by Baracoa nine years ago, following the initiative staged by cultural promoter in this municipality Elmer Nuñez, wining more quality and participants over the years.


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Make-A-Wish sends 11-year-old to Cuba to visit grandparents

JERSEY CITY, N.J. Make-A-Wish New Jersey has surprised an 11-year-old lymphoma patient with a trip to Cuba. ( ) reports Tyler Machado thought he was heading to the doctor’s office Friday morning. But he instead was greeted with a red carpet leading to a stretch limousine.

Tyler is the first child from the United States to go to Cuba through Make-A-Wish since the travel ban was lifted under the Obama administration.

Tyler’s mother says her son is a “family person” who has always wanted to go to Cuba to meet his grandparents. Her son said he was happy before heading out on his six-day trip.

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Secretary of Agriculture in favor of more trade with Cuba

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue pledged to back the expansion of agricultural trade with Cuba in a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee.

In an exchange with U.S. Representative Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), Perdue expressed his support for bipartisan legislation that would remove the restrictions on offering of private financing for the sale of agricultural commodities to Cuba.

This proposal, named Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, would modify the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act that conditions U.S. trade with the island. The bill was presented in January by Crawford and Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas).

In the House hearing, Representative Crawford pressed for Perdue to be a vocal advocate for U.S. farmers and ranchers as the Trump administration undergoes its Cuba policy review. “I hope you’ll be inclusive on the agricultural front,” he urged him.

Rick Crawford recalled that although U.S. farmers can sell their products to the island. The transactions are legally conditioned by “the cash up front requirement that is really an impediment to fully realizing the potential of that market.”

“I hope that you would be able to review that and endorse that bill because we want to try and move that forward as quickly as we can and provide greater access,” said the Arkansas Representative to Perdue during the hearing. “I think that’s something I would be supportive of,” the secretary of agriculture responded.

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Raul Castro sends floral wreath to pay homage to Jose Marti

Havana, Cuba, May 19.- Cuban President Raul Castro sent a floral wreath to be laid at the Jose Marti Mausoleum in Santiago de Cuba to pay homage to the Cuban National Hero on the anniversary of his death in combat.

A special guard of honor ceremony, along a political-ceremony activity, was held at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery with the presence of students of the Revolutionary Army Forces Medical School, to mark the 122 anniversary of Marti’s death.

The president of the University of Havana’s Student Federation, Raul Alejandro Palmero, leading a delegation from that higher studies center, said it was an honor to pay tribute there to two spiritual fathers: Marti and Fidel Castro, whose ashes are interred also at that cemetery.

Meanwhile. Gabriel Blanco , member of the Communist Party politburo in that Eastern Cuban province said that on May 19, 1895, the falling in combat of Marti marked the birth of a symbol for what he has meant for Cuba as a fighter, a politician, a poet and a journalist. (ACN)

Radio Cadena Agramonte, May 19, 2017

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Cuban oregano can be a garden herb in the summer, and a house plant in the winter

Cuban oregano is a unique and little-known herb.  It isn’t a true oregano, and also goes by the name of Spanish thyme, Indian borage, or Mexican mint.

Cuban oregano, or plectranthus, is quite different than true oregano.  Its leaves are much larger and it is a succulent that can be grown outdoors with very little water in the summertime, or indoors for the wintertime as a house plant.  When damaged, the leaves release a strong, pungent odor, and the flavor is still much like true oregano, but stronger, so don’t use too much if you cook with it.

In the summer, both varieties will have a purple flower which attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  So if you’re looking for a new, unique herb to add to your garden and to have as a house plant in the winter, get some cuban oregano.

Have a gardening question?  Use the form below to ask the folks at Bennett Nurseries.  We may feature this in an upcoming Garden Tips segment!

Claire Johnson,

May 18, 2017

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CubaNostalgia to feature classic American cars known on the island as ‘almendrones’

Those classic old American cars that delight tourists in Cuba and appear in so many photos of Havana will be the theme of this year’s 19th edition of CubaNostalgia.

But the cars that will be on exhibit aren’t from the island; they are from collectors in South Florida.

The traditional event, which marks Cuba’s birth as a nation on May 20, will be held at the Miami-Dade Fair Expo May 19-21.

El Nuevo Herald will mark its own 30th anniversary with a display of key front pages along eight panels at the company’s exhibit area and a video featuring celebrities congratulating the newspaper. The collection includes the newspaper’s first front page, on Nov. 21, 1987, predicting a new wave of Cuban migrant arrivals.

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