Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cuba Then and Now…

In “The Owner” (El dueño) Nuria Barbosa Leon shares her own story in growing up in a campesino family before the Revolution. At her home, she says, nobody discussed politics even though it was difficult to live in a house made of wood, with a roof of royal palm and a dirt floor; there was not furniture and the beds were hammocks. Her mother cooked with carbon in the small place occupied by eleven children and two adults.

It was not an easy job to produce sweet potatoes in their land either. They lived in Oriente, in a hamlet called Cacocun where the closest neighbor was at about two kilometers from their home. And yet, that was not the worse, the worse was the constant threats made by the owner of the land --a man who came to their house with a rifle and his men and who was never happy with the share of crops Nuria's family produced for him in payment for the rent. They were afraid, Nuria said, to be removed from the land. They were afraid of him but soon they hated him and at times they did not know their feelings, was it hatred or fear, or maybe both. To pay the rent every month, besides the crops produced, her father worked as a hired hand for another landowner for 15 pesos per month. When her brothers were old enough they would work that way too.

They suffered from measles, malaria and typhus and they had no shoes to wear. Swimming in the overflowing river once a year was their only party. She cannot remember who discussed about Fidel being in the Sierra Maestra or about the changes he had in mind. They learned about the triumph of the Revolution because of some shots fired in the middle of the night and because someone riding a horse through the area let everybody know. Thus, when the administrator of the land came to charge them with the rent for the month of May, they told him about the Agrarian Reform and showed him the papers that the Institute of the National Agrarian Reform had given them, they made them “owners” too.  

Yunior and the benefits of Horse Therapy

It was during a sunny day during a Cuban summer --when there are not clouds, the heat multiplies, the earth boils and the dust grows that Yunior, a 5 years old, was on his way to have therapy with a horse. His congenital blindness never let him know animals or plants and he could not distinguish colors, forms, shine or darkness either. He needed to touch, smell and taste to know.

He imagined horses like war heroes or work partners, according to the stories he had heard but he also believed horses were docile, obedient, friendly no matter what, and also faithful and loving. His teacher, the doctors and the therapists from the Abel Santamaria special school, had explained to him the benefits of therapy with horses and that it consisted of a few hours of exercises with a horse. He was excited. When he arrived to the place, his excitement grew even more because he heard the trotting of the horses and they presented him with an Appaloosa called Nevado.

It was enough for the child’s hand to touch the horse’s back or head or said some loving words, for the animal to be very loving towards him. The first day Yunior learned to mount but he wanted more and the horse stood up and surprised everybody by trotting with him. Then, after many days and long sessions they developed strong affection for each other. The child played and the horse let him do anything on his back. It was a close relationship that science cannot explain easily. It lasted eleven years. The horse died blind at that point and the child had become strong and capable.   

 By Nuria Barbosa León, journalist (Granma/Radio Habana Cuba) translated with permission by NF.