Henry Aaron passed away yesterday. For baseball nerds like myself I was sad to hear the announcement. It came on the heels of what has been quite a week. First, we saw the news that Trump “was gone.” After four years of tremendous turbulence which saw him contribute to the Republican party losing the House of Representatives, then the Senate and finally the presidency his antics, criminal behavior and abusive personality will undoubtedly make him one of the most memorable boneheads in history. That same day civility returned as Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Larry King RIP
Then this morning we awakened to the news that legendary broadcaster Larry King passed away at 87. But this post is about Henry Aaron.
The legend of The Hammer
Sports is part of our culture and oftentimes history is made right before our eyes. Henry Aaron was an unassuming professional athlete. He was known as “Hank” and later as “The Hammer.” During his era many great African-American players blossomed and their slugging prowess might have been taken for granted.
Through his career he was not known as a high-profile player. His first major league team was with the Milwaukee Braves which was considered a small-market franchise. This more than anything allowed him to fly under the radar as it was not until you analyzed his stats that you realized his greatness. He played twenty-three years and not once did he go on the DL (disabled list). There were no pads to protect his body from blazing fast-balls, no batting gloves to protect his hands from being jarred by a batted ball which didn’t connect with the sweet spot of the bat. He just went and did his job, day in, day out and through it all earned the distinction as the home run king.
The historic 4th Inning
On that Monday night in 1974, I was at the apartment of my buddy Ed Davis. The Braves were playing our beloved Dodgers and we knew it was a matter of time but we sat in anticipation drinking Schlitz beer. Just like that, after Al Downing (known as Gentleman Al) let go of the pitch we heard Vin Scully describe the historic moment of 715.
Aaron wound up with a whopping 755 home runs. He became a great ambassador of the game and for his activism in civil rights. As Atlanta was preparing for the 1996 Olympics, Aaron’s home field, Fulton County stadium was about to be transformed into the main Olympic venue. We heard that once the games were complete the stadium would be named in honor of him. Unfortunately, that did not happen. In 2000 I finally got a chance to visit “Turner Field” and while I came for the game as the Braves were hosting the Pirates, I wanted to see the field replication that was embedded into the parking lot. It featured an accurate layout of the field and had a marker where Aaron’s 755th blast landed. What a site! As I went to see the game, I was lucky to catch a home run ball off the bat of a Pirates player.
In 2017, Trust Park (Suntrust) became the new home of the Braves. I was still miffed they moved from “the hood” but I had a trip to Atlanta which coincided with the baseball season and luckily it was a home game. I organized the trip because I wanted to see long-time Dodger Matt Kemp who had been recently traded to the Braves. In addition, I wanted to see the much-heralded Hank Aaron statue and other tributes the new stadium featured. It was quite a site.
Aaron’s legacy will be remembered by fans around the globe and known for his humanity and goodwill.
I just returned from one of my treks and had a layover in Panama. You will appreciate the newly remodeled airport, among the many updated restaurants, stores and services it has several COVID testing stations. If you are traveling through Panama on your way to your final destination and you have documentation of NEGATIVE testing results from within 48 hours, and you do not plan on exiting the terminal testing in Panama IS NOT REQUIRED.
This article will cover COVID testing as well as information should you desire to go to Panama City.
If you wish to exit the terminal and perhaps take the 20-minute metro ride to Panama City YOU ARE REQUIRED TO TAKE A TEST AND THE RESULTS MUST BE NEGATIVE.
The process at Panama’s Tocumen airport is fairly simple.
Once you disembark from your air carrier you will notice COVID stations.
Staff will greet you and take your temperature.
You will be directed to the station where they will inspect your passport, complete their paperwork and ask how you wish to handle the $50 payment (credit card).
You will be directed to the other station where the technician will administer the PCR test through your nasal.
You will be directed to the waiting area immediately adjacent the Covid station.
In approximately 30, no more than 45 minutes staff will come out, call your name and hand your test results in a letter form.
Assuming you are negative you are free to go through customs and exit the terminal. also once you return back to the airport the same day there is no need for retesting.
Should you have any question or need tips please contact me separately because as simple as the process is you must prepare yourself with accurate information so that your ultimate trip meets your expectations and is successful.
Bienvenida a PANAMA!!!!
For those wishing to head to PANAMA CITY using the Metro Rail.
Getting to Panama City is pretty easy. It is approximately 20-30 minutes from the airport. For some a taxi works so expect about $25. For trekkers like me on a budget, the Metro rail is perfect. You can pay for rides each way or simply get a Metro Day Pass for $5. You will see kiosk inside the terminal and staff will gladly assist you.
Next once you go through immigration simply exit the terminal and head RIGHT that leads you to the curb where you will see traffic. LOOK FOR ZONA 2 as that is the pick-up point for the Metro Bus.
The bus runs fairly quick but be sure to hop on the correct one. Look for the bus where the sign reads CORREDOR SUR – It is about 3-5 minutes from the terminal and is a transfer point where you can take local buses or hop on the metro rail. GO UPSTAIRS to the Metro Rail and take Panama City Metro Line 2.
The trains are clean and efficient. Enjoy your trek to Panama City. Please note, upon arrival back to the airport YOU WILL NEED TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS, so give yourself enough time to catch your connecting flight.
The contents of this article are from actual experience but I am indebted to two contributors who helped make better sense of the process, R. Field and Juan Carlos
I just returned from the Caribbean’s largest country otherwise known as CUBA. Unless you have a personality full of anxiety, skepticism, fear or other traits which lead to hesitant reactions, if going to Cuba is part of your upcoming plans, I would encourage you to pack your bags. If you are a citizen of the US, the assumption is you already are part of the twelve approved categories to travel as published by the United States Treasury.
Covid is real. From what I witnessed you must applaud the Cuban government for maintaining a disciplined approach to manage this pandemic.
My first recommendation is to check your air travel and see if the mandatory Cuba Covid insurance has been added? If not no worries because as you check-in air travel staff ask you for the $30 fee. It can only be paid with a credit card.
The process for entry into CUBA is fairly simple.
Once you disembark from your air carrier you are directed to your respective terminal.
2. From there you will be directed to the line for your Covid screening.
3. Staff will hand you a questionnaire which should be completed as you snake your way through the line. It is pretty straight-forward and among other things ask where you will be staying.
4. As your turn nears, you will notice medical staff at the line who will inspect your form for completeness.
5. Once it is your turn, you will be directed to staff seated at tables. They will inspect your form and assuming it is correct you will be handed a form which spells out what you must do because as soon as you depart the airport you must go to your designed casa or place you have indicated for mandatory quarantine.
VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU READ AND UNDERSTAND
6. The next station will be the Covid PCR test. A technician will administer the test which includes both nasals being swabbed.
7. Your next stop will be going through immigration – having your documents reviewed and having any personal items you brought on your flight for screening.
8. From there and just before you go to retrieve your luggage, your last Covid station will be staff administering a temperature check.
9. From there you grab your luggage, exit that area (unless you are a returning Cuban national DO NOT STAND IN THE WRONG LINE. Typically, all you have is your luggage so you should be able to whisk through the exit.
10. Your final line is customs declaration and unless you have something bizarre you are passed for the official exit from the terminal.
AS YOU LOCATE YOUR RIDE, YOUR NEXT STOP MUST BE TO YOUR CASA.
Quarantine is communicated to last from 24 hours to five days.
If you are positive someone from the local clinic will usually contact you immediately. Do not be surprised if even after five days you have not been contacted. Should that be your reality you should request from your host to contact their clinic or authorized Doctor to administer the second PCR test. Once that test is completed, results are typically received within 24 hours. If you are NEGATIVE you have successfully completed your Covid quarantine.
Should you have any question or need tips please contact me separately because as simple as the process is you must prepare yourself with accurate information so that your ultimate trip meets your expectations and is successful.
Bienvenida a CUBA!!!!
As mentioned earlier, COVID is real and you will see the effects all over the country. But no fret as while there are some inconveniences you can still get around and enjoy your stay. Even before COVID the country was experiencing an economic downturn but you will not starve or otherwise be miserable. Like other parts of the world, many are out of work or seen their employment greatly modified. The key recommendation is to be smart and otherwise use commonsense.
One last tip to understand is due to economic hardships the government will be imposing targeted reforms. The biggest will be the elimination of the CUC starting January 1, 2021 (people will have a 180 window to purge themselves of this currency). My recommendation is TO NOT TRANSFER FUNDS AT THE AIRPORT or at your arrival. Find a legitimate source wherever you are heading and they will gladly assist you. In my case I traded US Dollars at a rate of 1.50:1 – what a deal!!!!! CUP’s will become the predominate currency and of course, like I, you can head to the local Cadeca and transfer CUC’s into CUP’s.
Bottom-line, the country is still bustling but not at the rate seen prior to COVID. And yes, as it relates to those from the United States the many people I ran into are encouraged of the upcoming change in the presidential administration.
The country of Cuba has a better handle on the Covid-19 outbreak than most countries. However as of this posting one of the primary interstate bus systems is still not operating. Viazul operates across the country and is similar to Greyhound. I will need to verify if local buses are operating as Cuba will a little more than 11 million people only approximately one and one-half percent own a car. For the vast majority of people their primary mode of getting around is public transportation, taxis, hitching a ride, motorbikes, bicycles and walking.
Here is the official correspondence I received from Viazul headquarters.
viazul < firstname.lastname@example.org >To:‘Fred Thomas’Thu, Oct 8 at 3:46 PM
Currently all services are suspended as a security measure against Covid-19. The restart of our service is subject to the epidemiological situation of the country, this process will be done in phases and our operations must begin in the third stage. When the ticket sales opening date is defined, you will be informed through social networks, the website and the press. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
A word about the above photos. The head photo was taken at Black Lives Matter Plaza showing a lady who was doing a “power salute.” The second photo is a Frederick Douglas bust located in Fell’s point. It is a tremendous piece of art as it showcases Douglas’ time spent in the inner-harbor.
The worldwide novel corona virus pandemic added a new dimension to this year’s trek. From hotel’s to restaurants and other places we visited were very sensitive to safety and other precautions.
This trek started years ago as it was simple gesture of paying respect to the March on Washington. This year was the 57th Anniversary and Rev. Al Sharpton through his National Action Network partnered with Martin Luther King, III as well as many other social-action groups to host the event. They did an outstanding job in organizing as well as adhered to safety guidelines.
One more thing about trekkers. They have an adventurous personality. We did everything we could to make sure we were protected. Our flight was dirt cheap. The jet was approximately 65% full as most of the middle seats were vacant. The hat-trick was both going and coming back were nonstop. Another important note is we DO NOT rent a car. Instead we use the MARC, METRO and/or other public accommodations. On rare occasions we opt for Uber/Lyft but part of the journey is experiencing people at a basic level, and that is found when you use public transportation. Plus, with all of the food we consume walking and moving about is a great way to keep a check on those calories!
Click here for some of our photo gallery>>> 57th MOW
Everyone loves photos!!!
Church where Trump pulled stunt
The Yard Neighborhood
The Yard Neighborhood
Frederick Douglas Bridge
Gate adjacent Lafayette Square
The Yard Neighborhood
Gate adjacent Lafayette Square
Capitol in foreground from the Yard
Protester in front of White House
Black Lives Matter Plaza
Nationals Park parking structure
Traveling offers many adventures. One being experiencing the variety of foods offered as you go from region to region. Here is a list of places we visited during this trek.
Supanos is located near the Inner Harbor or adjacent downtown, next to the Marriott Residence Inn located on Light Street.
The Rat Story
You enter from an alley-like walkway. Covid 19 has added a new dimension to restaurants which are open. Fresco or outdoor dining is the most popular way customers are served. Outdoor dining is great, however the issue you must be aware of, especially at night is nocturnal animals such as rats, which is common around the globe. We arrived a little after 11 pm and were happy to be quickly seated. In the alley there are many other businesses/buildings squeezed together. As we were seated outside I could look over approximately 30 yards and noticed trash overflowing from bins (my wife later informed me it was from the Burger King). Something caught my eye and I noticed a nice size rat scurrying in the alley and headed to the restaurant which was next to Supanos.
I degres. I ordered what I thought was a soup and salad combo but it was basically two bowls of soup. Both were tasty but appeared loaded with a bit too much salt. My wife ordered to chicken fettuccine. The server was overwhelmed as actually even though it was nearing midnight there were quite a few guest, like us looking for a meal.
During our treks we visit the Inner Harbor quite a bit, however that was our first and last time going to Supanos.
I found Ethel’s approximately five years ago. When I am in Baltimore it has become a must-stop. It is in a very quaint part of Baltimore called Friendship Heights. The great news for us is it is right off of the Marc Light rail. The food is very tasty, however as you might imagine when you bring folk with Louisiana tradition there is a new level of critique. The crab dip was amazing. The red beans and rice dishes could have used a bit more juice and the gumbo seemed a bit too thick. On the other hand, the fried Oysters were perfect. Of course with Covid, we were relegated to outdoor seating and the servers made adjustments to make sure our visit was pleasant.
Phillip’s is well-known in Baltimore. Unfortunately many locals have come to define it as a “tourist trap.” We learned the hard way. Looking for something light I opted for a crab sandwich and Judith wanted her basic ceasar salad. It was only about 7pm and we both were surprised when the waiter came back to inform us there were no more ceasar salads!!!! How does a large restaurant in a popular spot run out of romaine lettuce?
Anyway, our first and last time at Phillip’s.
Phillip’s famous crab cake sandwich
Popeye’s – Baltimore, MD
After a visit to Morgan State University and Memorial stadium we headed to Penn Station to pick up MARC tickets to DC. On the way, we decided to swing by Popeye’s for a their popular chicken sandwiches. I know there is a lot of buzz throughout cities about chicken sandwiches, For the money, Popeye’s is a steal. Tasty and under $5 bucks while just about everywhere else people gladly pay $8 to $12
A DC establishment but Covid has a way of humbling even the best of them. They just started serving breakfast from 9am – 2pm – takeout ONLY. However, if you are lucky there are tables adjacent the window where you pick up your food. You order from one side of the building and around the corner is the pick-up spot. BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR ORDER. Even though it is take-out you want to make sure you have all of your condiments, utensils, etc. We had to ask for the syrup (pancakes) and the muffins were missing, which we found out they had run out but did not inform us at time of order? As we waited for our order, a peculiar thing occurred in all of my years I had never experienced. Some ladies had ordered and upon looking in their bag they discovered the grits were missing! The person manning the take-out window belted it, “there are no more grits and the cook said she isn’t making anymore!!!!” What??? An African-American restaurant running out of grits and it was only about 11:30 AM so they had a good 2 and one-half hours to go!!! Wow. Anyway, since Florida is an institution I’m a bit more forgiven and will chalk up this experience to a rarity. I have been before and the food and service is usually on the money.
Busboy’s & Poet’s has transitioned to a DC institution due to it’s good basic food, combined with literature and a great theme paying homage to African-American literary giants. This was our second visit to the newest location which is in the Anacostia community.
Due South was this year’s new find. Located in the Navy Yard district, the area has been transformed to one of the more trendier neighborhoods in DC. Nationals Park is the main attraction but many new restaurants have popped up. Due South offers a southern theme and a nice variety of food options.
Southern Fried Chicken w/Mac & Cheese and Collard Greens
G & M is a Baltimore institution. I should have listened to my brain and ditched the notion of ordering from Grubhub! I was a bit pooped from the train ride from DC to Baltimore so I decided to give Grubhub a shot. Advocates of Grubhub stress the convenience but for what I received I should have simply gone to the restaurant. In addition to the service fee, delivery fee and tip there is also the hidden hustle of them surcharging each item for yet more of your money in their pocket. This was revealed once I returned home and was reviewing my receipts. Interestingly G & M had placed my receipt in the bag and my total came to $42. However, by the time I reviewed my Grubhub bill the total had jumped to $77!!!!!! I should have known better. Anyway, G & M has a nice menu and they are worth visiting in person, unless you have an extra $35 to throw away.
[Los Angeles, CA – Day 18] It has been eighteen days since George Floyd was murdered. Depending on one’s perspective or life’s experiences, sides have been drawn. Just about everyone agrees ex-officer Chauvin as well as the other three arresting ex-officers used excessive and unnecessary force.
The Floyd incident has morphed from a moment to a movement based on what we are witnessing in cities around the globe. As expected, there are those who proclaim the reaction is over-blown. They go further to suggest it is some type of Democratic funded operation to smear our system. I guess they feel because Floyd was African-American and the majority of them vote in favor of Democratic candidates, surely the party must be behind their antics? They quietly dismiss the notion that deciding which political party to support boils down to which one MOSTLY supports your issues? It appears to be a sound-bite that some accept based on which media they consume?
One side sees a need for justice. The other side sees a need to stop disrespecting civility. Another critical analysis those in opposition can’t explain, as history may be the final arbiter is why folk from various ethnicities, age groups and other demographics have joined the movement? To further justify their belief the reaction is fueled by a political party, they voice opposition via social media suggesting those who support the reaction to Floyd are ill-informed or have they been induced into some cult?
Most have forgotten the Black Lives Matter has been around. Just in 2016, through media it was vilified as a revolutionary group you should be scared to associate with. That’s why this time is different. As mentioned, folk from all walks of life have changed their social consciousness and now proudly proclaim the Black Lives Matter moniker.
There is one more critical point about protesting which those in opposition somehow find difficult to accept or understand. Protesting is a public gesture to create awareness of the issue. Following must be a series of actions which make the reason for protesting a serious action. As an example most people never heard or knew of Emmett Till, Jimmie Lee Jackson or more contemporary examples such as Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner or even George Floyd. It was the type of tragic death they suffered which made them household names. Therein lays a prime reason for the public outrage we are experiencing. It is bigger than any specific named person. It has to do with a system that minimizes their life merely because they were black. It has very little to do with their past as a seed of racism makes it okay to marginalize those who are deemed less than. Unfortunately, many buy into this paradigm while defining themselves as wholesome american folk.
Protest is a basic right. How long people take to the streets is anybody’s guess? What we are hearing by documenting daily events is it will continue until November 3rd! While Black Lives Matter is the main organization leading the protest, many splinter groups have joined and that has helped fuel the energy to sustain the reaction.
Revolutionary Communist Party known as RevCom was one group which led the Los Angeles Protest – Day 18. Just like when Black Lives Matter hit the scene, their name probably scares the hell out of people. The long and short, they are a social-action group. One of their main tenets is trying to unite “Brown & Black.” Speakers did a very good job in communicating how racism has been used to divide the groups. Unfortunately many in the affected groups have bought into the notion of distrusting the other. As an example one of the passionate Latina leaders expressed how many from Mexico and other Latin American countries have been raised to feel African-Americans are lazy, untrustworthy, criminal and otherwise the type of people you need to stay away from.
Like many rallies, the participation builds as it weaves through the streets to their final destination. They started across the street from City Hall, facing Grant Park. Headed south on Spring street, the spirited group marched to 7th Street and headed west until they reached Mac Arthur Park which is several miles away in the Westlake community. There were no incidents or negative reaction. As a matter of fact, many who were driving stopped their cars to show support. A few actually joined the marchers. Folk came out of restaurants and bars to show support. The Los Angeles Police picked up the rear to undergird the marchers progress as they went through the streets.
[Los Angeles, CA – Day 9] Activism is nothing new to me, at least that’s what I want to think! Today marked the 9th day since the murder of George Floyd and after jockeying my schedule I ran out of excuses of why I could not be on hand to document the important rally scheduled at 3pm..
You’ve all seen the protest which followed ex-policeman Chauvin pulling a rare move most of us haven’t seen – putting his knee of the neck of George Floyd, while he had been restrained and in hand-cuffs. The cous de gras was Chauvin’s bold move to comfortable place his hand in his pocket while cutting off Floyd’s air flow. Most of you saw what we all saw and perhaps that inspired you to raise your voice and join the movement?
I was trying to remember when was the last time I saw a reaction of this magnitude? I go back to 2000 when I was fortunate to travel to Chiapas, Mexico to get a first-hand glimpse of supporters of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista movement. The revolutionaries rose up against the government while loudly proclaiming – BASTA!!!!!!
The reaction from Floyd’s murder seems a bit different. We’ve heard that refrain from members of the media who have been reporting the events One of the major protests today centered at the Hall of Justice (County of Los Angeles) at the steps of District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office. As I was driving to secure a parking spot, I could see a flurry of participants head towards Temple & Broadway. Signs in tote it was quite a sight. I just knew this was different from the many events I have attended/participated in.
The crowd swelled to easily 10,000 plus. The event was well organized and despite the Covid-19 pandemic we are dealing with folk had mask and other protection. Folk were walking the line dispatching out water, squirts of hand-sanitizer, snacks and even first-aid stations so you could maintain your energy. Their focus was maintaining a safe environment to insure the message of change was front & center.
A very interesting dynamic that I witnessed was the demographic of the crowd. I would guestimate the primary ages ranged from 20 – 40. The ethnic composition was what you would expect from Los Angeles. It was exceptionally diverse. The take-away from today’s event as well as those which have taken place since Floyd’s life was cut short is will the energy and commitment get translated into serious civic engagement – VOTING? For all the signs and images of being fed-up, will the people have the courage to leverage their voice and create the change they are seeking?
Above Photo. MINNEAPOLIS , MINNESOTA - MAY 31: The makeshift memorial and mural outside Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis , Minnesota. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
For enslaved Africans the vestiges of racism and slavery have a ghost-like affect in the United States of America. Like the current Covid-19 pandemic the results can be deadly.
George Floyd will be a martyr for the 2020 rebellions which are sweeping across the nation. Born in Houston Texas, Floyd found Minneapolis as a place to try and live out his dreams.
Many questions have popped up since his murder was shown across media. Minnesota has long prided itself as a state you could enjoy life. All of that sounds good but for the vast majority of African-Americans who like Floyd migrated there, that has not been their reality.
To get a better understanding of why many view the Floyd murder as a symbol resulting from the vestiges of racism and slavery, you’ve got to pause and pay attention to history: current history.
The income gap in Minneapolis between white and black families is the second worse in the country, at $50,000. Judy Woodruff, Executive Producer PBS News Hour
Like so many states, as productive as Minnesota is for some it has a history. For African-American’s that history translates into the same oppressive behavior which led to Floyd being murdered. We are not putting a blanket assessment on the people of Minnesota, especially those in the majority who are white but understanding the history and putting that understanding in a reasonable context might create objectivity when discussing Floyd. No doubt many African-Americans have created upward-mobility but a vast majority live in poverty which can be traced to the systemic social policies which are documented through the United States.
Here are two excellent sources that showcase current disparities in Minnesota and specifically Minneapolis
The segment is called “Roots of Anger” and starts at the 39:40 mark of the video.
The second piece is very interesting and shares how Minnesota became known as the “Jim Crow of the North.” I saw this special screening during the 2020 Pan-African Film Festival and it is riveting.
above caption courtesy of Getty Images, Ms. Caridad Limonta
In my journey’s and study to Cuba, the “Revolution” is a very intriquing topic. The hopes and aspirations of that iconic period brought tremendous hope. Of course those who are anti-Castro and oftentimes crowd the airways would have you believe it was a total, if not absolute failure. One question I always ask when I come across those of Ms. Limonta’s age group is what inspired then to hang-on? It really is simple: Either you believe or you don’t!
I would encourage you to read the following editorial which was posted in the New York Times May 24, 2020.
**ARTICLE REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION**
How Cubans Lost Faith in Revolution
In this election year, the key for American politicians to understanding Cubaʼs politics is understanding its people and the promises of a better life that were not kept.
By Anthony DePalma
Mr. DePalma is a former foreign correspondent for The Times.
May 23, 2020
GUANABACOA, Cuba — There was nothing Caridad Limonta would not do for her dear mother, even if it meant fulﬁlling her strange wish to be buried with two pairs of socks.
Cancer took Ms. Limonta’s mother, Zenaida, in 2002, while they lived together in this ancient town across the harbor from Old Havana. Following the custom of many Cuban families, Ms. Limonta washed the body and sprinkled it with talcum powder and perfume. Holding back tears, she dressed her mother and covered her with a white sheet. Then Ms. Limonta, at age 46, carried out her mother’s odd request, pulling two polyester socks onto her feet and another pair over her hands.
From my experiences Cuba is a definition of survival and struggle. It is not a place for the weak or feeble-minded or those who judge everything from their prism.
A few years later, when her mother’s remains were exhumed and the bones interred in a small vault so that the tomb could be reused, Ms. Limonta saw the sense in her precautions. The tiny bones of her hands and feet were neatly contained inside the pairs of socks, like marbles in two sacks.
Until her mother died, Ms. Limonta had managed to avoid this unpleasant Cuban reality. But her mother’s illness and death also forced her to confront an unsettling truth that profoundly reshaped her relationship with the Cuban revolution and led her to a deeper understanding of what it really means to be Cuban.
It is an understanding that American voters and politicians might beneﬁt from recognizing, in this election year when relations with Cuba, along with the votes of Cuban-Americans, are on the table. As Ms. Limonta came to realize, being a Cuban means having deep respect for, and ﬁrst loyalty toward, her fellow Cubans and the heritage, customs and needs of their island society that they share, no matter who holds power there.
But it had taken Ms. Limonta decades to even approach that realization.
The ﬁrst inkling came when her mother, a retired nurse, had been fussed over by some of Cuba’s best doctors inside Havana’s ﬁnest hospitals. Ms. Limonta needed to know: Had she beneﬁted from Cuba’s acclaimed medical prowess because every Cuban does? Or had her mother been pampered because Ms. Limonta herself was a ranking member of the Communist Party and vice minister of light industry for all of Cuba?
Until then, Ms. Limonta’s faith in the revolution had been absolute. Born just three weeks after Fidel Castro started his uprising by beaching an old American yacht called Granma in a mangrove swamp on Cuba’s southern shore in 1956, she had fully embraced his promise to wipe out inequality and create a new Cuba.
Growing up in the tiny sugar mill town of Tacajó in eastern Cuba, she’d believed with all her heart that regardless of her gender, or the poverty into which she’d been born, or the deep mahogany sheen of her skin, she was equal to every other Cuban. When she boarded a trans-Atlantic ocean liner in 1976, she gazed at the thousands of other Cuban students going with her to study at Soviet universities and felt equality had already been achieved. “The ship was full of young people,” she recalls. “Chinese, white, mulatto, black, all of us equal, with practically the same clothes, the same suitcases.”
Returning to Havana in 1981, she applied her economics degree to positions in Cuba’s textile industry, overlooking the advantages she was receiving and the shortcomings of the revolution that she, unlike many other Cubans, had embraced. On the darkest day of the revolution in August 1994, when angry mobs shouted “Freedom” and “Down with Fidel”— the largest mass protest against the Castro government —she was enjoying a buffet at a Varadero beach resort, a deserved reward for a job well done. She eventually rose to vice minister and held powerful positions within the party. But she couldn’t understand why tens of thousands of Cubans had risked their lives trying to reach Florida in ﬂimsy rafts.
As the revolution aged, contradictions grew harder to ignore. As her job took her around the country, she saw that the hospitals most Cubans went to were shabby reﬂections of the one where her mother was treated. Other Cubans waited months, sometimes years, for a wheelchair. They couldn’t count on oxygen being available. Vital equipment broke down. Medicines ran out. Doctors and nurses expected to be bribed.
That, in absolute terms, is not true. Class distinctions are present and expressed in a sometimes catastrophic way, under the coronavirus pandemic. Becoming the very basis of the conditions under which the individual is obliged to face the pandemic
It is true that anyone can get sick, in biological terms, but neither the way to get sick, nor the way to face the disease, is the same for all individuals. This is determined by the social conditions in which each one lives . A time when their class status is decisive.
Biologically speaking, anyone can acquire the virus, but certain circumstances play an important role in this, which are inextricably linked to class status.
This is the result of the contagion with the virus is quite determined by the living conditions in which people survive and those that have occurred, and capitalism had already predetermined them very strongly, before the pandemic arrived.
By the way, I am not referring to personal conditions, related to the suffering of certain chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease, etc. But to those living conditions, which do not have to do directly with the disease as such.
These, pre-existing to the pandemic, are the following:
The monetary income received, determines, above all, the conditions in which one lives. The neighborhood, the quality of the house, the social and material environment and the type of environment and people around us.
The medical care you receive, even if it is free, can be better or worse, and this is decisive, because it contributes to some extent to the conditions, better or worse, in which each person faces the virus and a possible disease in general.
Diet and its quality, in general, is decisive, in the conditions with which each person faces any illness. If you are well fed, you have energies that are decisive for recovery.
Moving by car is not the same as traveling by public transport. The risks with which you must face a possible contagion differ greatly.
It is, then, that in general, the material life conditions in which the individual finds himself, are determining factors to overcome the possibility of acquiring the virus, or any disease.
Finally, the culture of the individual is also decisive in the face of the reality of the disease. Well, the individual conscience before the possibility of getting sick or facing the disease as such, are determined by the level of culture that the individual possesses. Cultural level that is determined, first of all, by social origin, access to education and living conditions.
All the situations mentioned are closely linked, it could be said that, determining, the conditions in which the individual can face the adversity of becoming ill.
All the aforementioned conditions are present in any company. We would say, the same in a society like that of Cuba, as in any other society.
In all known societies, until now, individuals differ in their living conditions, which is decisive when facing the disease.
The Coronavirus pandemic has served to make even more evident, substantial differences, how an individual copes with the disease within a society like that of Cuba and the rest, of the majority, of the existing societies in the world.
Being true that, biologically speaking, the virus makes no distinction of class, social group, race, cultural level, etc. Well, he attacks anyone who opposes him. Although the conditions in which each person must face such a situation, particularly the danger of becoming infected, differ, since such situations are influenced by the living conditions of each individual, already mentioned above.
However, the pandemic has also clearly shown that it unfolds with more or less aggressiveness, depending on the health policy followed by the countries that suffer from it. Becoming clear that in such circumstances the political will of governments has influenced, to face the pandemic. The following becoming evident:
Countries that, by prioritizing the economy, over health, such as the United States, have begun to suffer the pandemic, due to the lack of an efficient health policy, through contagion, neglect of early detection of the virus and the lack of material conditions for the care of the sick.
The pandemic has also clearly shown how the neo liberal policy followed in recent years has affected health budgets, which have been systematically lowered, resulting in the fact that, when the pandemic arrived, many countries showed that they lacked health policies, budgets and resources to face the situation.
The pandemic has also shown that only with international collaboration and solidarity is it possible to face it. But, the fierce competition that neoliberal policies have brought, the harsh trade confrontation, the military confrontations at the regional level, the policies of international sanctions, the territorial usurpations and the theft of oil resources, among others, have shaped an international, negative environment. for confronting the pandemic. Because such an environment, prevalent in international relations, is incompatible with the type of relations needed to face the pandemic.
In particular, the policy followed by the United States has not been more negative regarding the behavior of the President. According to the Washington Post of April 8, 2020, “on January 3, Trump had already received formal notification of the existence of the virus. Trump was also informed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, on January 18. But when asked publicly about the virus, on January 22, he said: we have it totally under control: he is a person who comes from China. ”
Trump, after being alerted to the virus, spoke at eight rallies and six times played Golf, as if he had nothing to worry about.
Trump began to speak of the “Chinese Virus”, unloading on this nation the responsibility for the pandemic. By characterizing it this way, Trump then forces us to argue, reacting to a racist projection of the “scapegoat” type. And it is that this is precisely what he is pursuing, because it allows him to divert our attention, from which the fundamental questions should be right now: Where are the missing beds? Where are the masks and tests? Where is the federal policy that should be followed to counter the pandemic? While Trump does so, in addition, achieving a sounding board within American society, among many people, racists, xenophobes and neoliberals, who follow him and who do not measure the consequences of his policies.
Not enough to do so, Trump even acts against the World Health Organization (WHO) by threatening and blackmailing it by lowering or suspending its financial contribution to it.
Trump , flatly refuses also to put aside the sanctions policy against countries like Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc .; assuming at all times a arrogant attitude and not just genocidal, even mocking the predictions and recommendations of science. A policy that also denies collaboration with its historical allies , while cynically receiving and accepting solidarity aid that has come from China and Russia. Undoubtedly, it cannot be more cynical.
The United States cannot be consistent in its policy on pandemic response at the international level, because it is not at the domestic level. As a consequence of which, they have become the nation most affected by the new coronavirus.
The prevailing ideological values in American society also put citizens in a critical situation today, representing a danger to their own survival.
In the external order, the slogan of “America first”, and internally, individualism, consumerism, messianism and other very negative values that are its own, put the worst situation in American society, to achieve the degree of coherence policy that is needed to beat the pandemic. So all this becomes very difficult situations to overcome. Being Trump’s most optimistic projection, that the virus will kill between 100,000 and 240,000 citizens in the United States.
But, in addition, Golmann Sachs has calculated that social distancing measures have already caused a 34% contraction in GDP.
As if that were not enough, 33% of households, with incomes below $ 50,000 a year, have some unemployed member.
There are 16.7 million citizens without medical coverage.
“According to a study by the director of the Brookings Institute, the 50 counties hardest hit by the coronavirus, contribute 30% of employment and 36% of the country’s GDP.” Which is a serious problem to face in the perspective of a possible recovery.
It is insisted that Trump must classify Covid deaths, according to skin color, since serious studies have shown that the pandemic affects 70% of Afro-descendants in the United States.
Trump, in reality, did not foresee the polarization that has occurred with his policy, both in the world and within the United States, but has used it, dramatically increasing it. And that polarization is truly one of the greatest dangers facing American society.
The United States, and Trump in particular, did not learn the lessons of 2008-2009, when Wall Street was rescued, after the bankruptcy of Lehman Bross, at which time, as now, large masses of money were injected. However, no measures were then taken to prevent certain high-level sectors from benefiting to the detriment of the rescue of the real financial balance. Nor were there limits on investment banks on how to use the bailout. As a result, the current bailout is perceived as a new opportunity for companies to do business and make easy money.
The attitude of the Donald Trump administration puts the United States and the world in serious danger to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
It is that, for the United States – that is, for the system – the first thing is money and then everything else. This has been clearly demonstrated in its policy of prioritizing financial issues and attention to the economy above all else. Hence his insistence that the economy in general should be recovering by April Easter, and the country as a whole, when until now the situation has only worsened, without any light being seen at the end of the tunnel. .
Significant resources and money are obviously necessary to overcome the pandemic, which in particular is proving very expensive, particularly within the United States, without being able to calculate even how much it will cost to overcome Covid-19. However, there is really no shortage of money or resources on the planet. What there is is an order of priorities that, demanded by the neoliberal policy followed, prioritizes profit, expenditure on armaments, waste, concentration in a few hands of resources and money, over satisfaction of basic needs. human. Reasons that explain very well how the pandemic has far exceeded the available hospitalization capacities and resources for medical care in general, within a rich country like the United States.
Meanwhile, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and China, mainly, are standing out for their political behavior in the face of the pandemic, which earns the respect of the peoples of the world, showing great solidarity in this battle and also highlighting the character deeply. negative of US foreign policy, in the face of President Trump’s interest in taking advantage of the pandemic, with the aim of advancing his intentions to control the world.
Being a global problem, the pandemic requires a global approach, global collaboration and solutions of the same nature. Because it is required to share medical equipment, as well as not to impose controls that affect the export of medicines, food and other essential products.
However, the United States does not react with a policy in tune with the situation to which it has led its population and the planet as a whole. So his obvious abundance of resources and money, to help the world and help himself, means very little. This represents an incalculable danger, because it is not possible to suppose that the pandemic can be globally overcome, if the United States does not end up collaborating to overcome it.
So, until today, the possibility of overcoming the pandemic appears to us as something fraught with uncertainties, dangers and potentially negative predictions.
The experience that the pandemic brings to date is not positive for capitalism. He has highlighted the incapacities of a system, which, in the face of the danger that affects the world, seems not to be in a position to assume adequate policies, even though its own salvation may go its way.
All of which is the consequence of a model of accumulation, in which only the benefits of capital, large corporations, large banks and that of a single part of society are prioritized. A very minority. So the rest of humanity could disappear , without causing the slightest concern.
Only now, the Covid-19, has demonstrated that the economic principles and values of capitalism are potential causes of its possible destruction. Because, as never before, it has been demonstrated that the world is one and that its survival does not depend only on a single part of it, but on all those who have the true will to save it.
Which, dialectically, confirms that it is also true that the coronavirus does not make class distinctions, especially when considering how we should save ourselves from the pandemic. Because we all share the same spaceship.
Havana, April 14, 2020
This article was reprinted with permission from the author, Professor Esteban Dominguez Morales who is a distinguished author and lecturer. Professor Morales hails from Cuba and his perspective is sought worldwide on social and economic matters related to Cuba.