Can we forget about Cinderella?

Por: Lázaro Numa Águila

Three months have passed from the detection and announcement of the first case of infection with the new Coronavirus in Cuba. Immediately, Public Health began to deploy the planned actions, many already being conceived on the part of monitoring the behavior of the epidemic in the city of Wuhan in the People’s Republic of China and its spread throughout Europe. The State activated its organs, forces and means for the pandemic confrontation. The actions were directed, from the outset, to consolidate the measure that was most efficient in the confrontation with the Covid-19: social isolation.

The capital of the country soon positioned in the avant-garde group regarding the number of infected. At the macro level its urban characteristics, demographics, tourist infrastructure, territorial extension, forms of social life and hygienic and health status, among many other variables, led to the fact. But at the micro level, not everything within it works in the same way, knowledge of this phenomenon is vital for an effective approach.

The territories further to the center maintain a different dynamic of life than those of the periphery, that is best felt in the municipality Of Centro Habana. Its neighborhoods operate on the basis of historical foundations, because its sociological structure has changed very little from the colonial stage to today and the phenomenon of cognitive root transfer has worked in an unconditioned way, even in the less old ones such as Key West and New Town. The territorial space is basically the same as old and modern Havana described in detail by José María de la Torre in the mid-19th century. Ethnic composition remains almost immovable. In religious life, although something has diversified, they remain the Catholic Church and the manifestations of Cuban popular religiosity of African origin, the most representative. The neighborhoods are there the small homeland and identification factor of the citizenship that inhabits them. These issues should be taken into account when addressing any social work with this population.

Centro Habana, if not the standard-bearer of social indiscipline in the capital, is in the avant-garde platoon. What causes affect this? First, overpopulation. Almost 40,000 people live in it per km2, most in complex situations, as its real estate infrastructure is almost the same as the nineteenth century. It has the largest commercial network of the capital, also inherited from cologne and the Republic. In it the city has been historically supplied, but today only the population of the municipality is enough to saturate it. The individual of the town is accustomed to the traditional corner trade, the winery, the butcher’s shop and the stall. If a distribution organized by popular councils has not been encouraged, everyone attends the few establishments where the products they need are issued. As it is not the sufficient and equitable supply, then it is explained why daily agglomerations, despair and disorder occur.

La indisciplina social que se visualiza en Centro Habana camina sobre la base de profundas necesidades y del desconocimiento de innumerables potencialidades.
The social indiscipline displayed in Centro Habana walks on the basis of deep needs and the knowledge of countless potentialities.

Under these conditions is more visible any social indiscipline. As opposed to what has been seen in the extensive commercial network, mobile points have shown another image, better discipline, order and respect has been seen, why? It’s like creating a temporary winery for them; because of the atmosphere of the neighborhood, everyone knows and respects each other, no one bids to take advantage, they know that it will not be feasible for them and they will find immediate answers within their own environment. This may seem like a lag of the past, to some extent it is, but it works that way because of the aforementioned historical reasons and conceptualizations not overcome. The resource in marginal appearance, properly used, can be efficient and would be of enormous use. In the situation we are experiencing, the knowledge and management of this issue would minimize what has been appreciated so far in the municipality: an image of chaos and indiscipline tending to be the focus of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, especially taking into account the level of asymptomatics that the disease has shown.

El acercamiento de la distribución al interior del barrio ha tenido mejor aceptación y resultados.
The approach of the distribution to the interior of the neighborhood has had better acceptance and results.

Another important element in this area is that the neighborhood constitutes a “security space” for the individual who inhabits it. Within it there is a unique dynamic, it involves everyone and is governed by a never-written law that dictates: “The life of the neighbor is only his and no one interferes with it. I don’t know him, I don’t know, I’m not interested.” That only works for the outsider, deep down he’s like a close relative. If you live there, whether doctor, technician, worker or unemployed with criminal tendency, it is a neighbor to which it applies, respected or ignored, but if necessary “given the light” (said in the most colloquial way possible). Those are the precepts, even if they don’t come to the “politically correct,” as a great friend would say. This is a historical and sociological issue transferred. Within the framework of the Covid-19 we analyze, this becomes a boomerang, it hinders the work of law enforcement, if any, in order to achieve correct discipline. Very quickly the word of his presence spreads and undue demonstrations disappear from the street. In this way, indiscipline is facilitated and with it the transmission of the virus is strengthened, so, according to statistics, it is very difficult to stop finding a daily case of contagion and transmission in the territory. Working with community members willing to cooperate can be beneficial in achieving better discipline persuasion.

Dentro de los barrios la indisciplina llega casi a estado de impunidad gracias al descuido y la falta de control.
Within the neighborhoods, indiscipline comes almost into a state of impunity thanks to carelessness and lack of control.

Religiosity in the municipality maintains high levels. In the People’s Council The Sites, to cite a concrete example, which is one of the most committed in the confrontation to the disease, Catholics are people for who feel a lot of respect and consideration. In it there are three important temples of the capital and the diocese; since childhood the sitiero is close to one of them, directly or indirectly receives its influence. The Catholic priest is seen with deep respect, I do not know a single case of any manifestation that will affect the physical and moral integrity of any one. Religious manifestations of African root also have a strong presence and because of the phenomenon of syncretism they maintain points of contact with Catholic, at least on an individual level. In smaller numbers Protestants, historical or not, show some representation as well. A religious leader in the neighborhood is also a social leader, around whom countless followers gather, possesses great power of convocation and persuasion. This feature could have been better exploited in the confrontation with the Covid-19 in the area, but unfortunately it seems that there are still great prejudices and restrictions that prevent better collaborative states. It is not a question of adding anyone to any interest, but of opening spaces to incorporate the interaction of all according to the common good.

It is rare not to find in a block a person who naturally inspires confidence, that is loved and heard, almost always of advanced age and of innate sapience. They have extraordinary binding power, they are natural leaders, but unfortunately sometimes their potential is underestimated. I had the experience of seeing a ninety-four-year-old woman move after her the entire block staff to a vaccination center, which was enabled to deliver the first dose of the Cuban VA-MENGOC-BC vaccine, in the Los Sitios neighborhood itself, with the aim of stimulating immunity in people at risk. Subsequently, I also witnessed the work that health personnel went through, visiting house by house, to get the rest of the population in the area to come to the place. The task manager he said to me disappointed: “I’m leaving The Sites disappointed, I thought the population’s response would be better.” If natural leaders had been searched in the environment, the results of the task would have been better.

Una ciudadana acude a un centro de vacunación en el barrio de Los Sitios compulsada por una anciana de la comunidad.
A citizen goes to a vaccination center in the Los Sitios neighborhood compulsed by an elderly woman from the community.

No one thinks that the pretence of these lines is to make the neighborhood in Centro Habana look like the eighth wonder, it is far from that. It is a complex structure and social formation. Let us not call ourselves deceit, in them there is everything, but they have potentials that are well addressed and with the help of the social sciences become strengths in any difficult situation like Covid-19.

These times have taught us, among many things, the potential of intelligence and talent that is in our country and the level of our science in all its breadth, we have seen its application in various branches of health, production, communications, culture, but we still have to learn to apply the social sciences to the best knowledge of the individual , the neighborhood, the community, which allows us to effectively influence its behavior, taking advantage of the unique potentials of each place and its particularities with a view to achieving the common overall objective. And I dare assure you that these sciences, which are always there, trying as Cinderella to be heard and that they are not regarded as “undesirable noise creators” elements, in the coming process of reintegration must necessarily play a fundamental role. Ω

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