Jorge Luis Hernández doesn’t have a roof to protect himself. Fibrocement shingles that previously fulfilled this function ended up somewhere far from Regla thanks to the tornado that was covered in his small house. Now, at sixty-eight, with 228 retirement weights and sick with head and neck cancer, this former worker and his wife try to take care of the elements with nylon sacks and zinc pieces that poorly fulfill the new assigned function. At the time of our meeting, your request for building materials was not yet anywhere, as told by Housing Office officials, they had neither paper nor pens to register. In the homelessness, Jorge Luis waits.
Pedro Malaña was trying to pass the latch to his door, when something that sounded just like a plane was thrown at him. Lying under a mountain of old gnaw wood, the eighty-nine-year-old thought of his ninety-nine wife Indalecia Miján, whom he had left lying down. Hearing a voice, he called for help and they were both saved. Indalecia, whom they call Mom, only talks about the pains of the body, the years have spent her mind. Pedro, whom they call Dad, laments that he must have died. They live on behalf of some neighbors, also affected. Hopeless, Mom and Dad are waiting.
Old Quimbro is no longer for guarachas. After dancing for more than forty years representing the municipality Regla and teaching several generations the very Cuban art of moving the body to the rhythm of a drum, to this octogenarian, named Guarachero de Honor, the music has abandoned it. Since his wife passed away, his only company is the dog Child. Hugging him, Quimbro saw a black cloud bring one by one the shingles of his battered house, which had long since protected him. Not even the pneumonia for which he was hospitalized months ago was enough to be heeded in his ongoing application for building materials. He says it’s too late now. In solitude, Quimbro waits.
These reglan stories – of the most extreme, without a doubt – are only a small part of the tragedy that has ravaged several municipalities of the capital of the Republic, capriciously on the eve of January 28, the anniversary of José Martí’s birthship. Like many of those affected, their three protagonists, humble to despair, have lost everything and the feeling of orphanage that engages them a week after the tornado is overwhelming.
The darkness of their situation does not allow them to see before them more than poverty, loneliness and destruction, but from the beginning they have been accompanied. First it was the relatives; then the neighbors; finally, it was all of them. Without the need for convening briefing notes, or coercive attendance lists, hundreds have been ingested to the streets with the simple desire to help, as the phenomenon came to shake not only the lives of those affected, it also moved a change in the soul of many of the inhabitants of the West: it transformed traditional Cuban solidarity into a genuine mass act of charity.
What happened exceeds the limits of the spiritual definition of solidarity, understood as conjunctural collaboration to the cause of others. For this, although rooted in a feeling of genuine empathy, does not even rub against the depth of the most important and superior of virtues: charity, which is, in essence, an act of love. Love for those who suffer, towards those who need it, towards the helpless, in short, towards the other person. That is why it is the most humane form of recognition and civilisational relationship of all – also the most complex and rare. Selfless and generous as it is, in it joy and peace are generated from the practice of good. It is, in short, social communion by antonomasia.
With its disproportionate violence, the tornado took citizens out of this usual area of indifference to which society condemns them with its hustle and bustle. Artists, entrepreneurs, professionals of all kinds and simple people felt the need to help strangers who, just a few kilometers away, the unfortunate chance had left them with nothing. Therefore, voluntarily and spontaneously, as moved by a higher force, donations and recovery aid began.
But every coin has two sides and the other of this situation is frightened by incomprehensible, for it is not easy to understand that some may profit from misfortune, speculating on food prices; or that unscrupulous officials delay formalities or ignore the petition for help from those affected, not only in breach of the basic human norm of attending to the helpless, but also with their own work. It is not enough for the highest levels of state leadership to seek resources – even in the midst of the complex situation of the national economy – and to give instructions to help, if the response of some ward bureaucrats to cases that would move anyone’s compassion is that “there is no paper, no pens.” Indolence, denounced even by President Diaz-Canel, is in these cases more horrific than usual.
The help of the people and the willingness of the state – which fulfills the Aristotelian duty to protect its citizens – could achieve more if they did not collide with the barrier of indifference and inability of bad people. It is these harmful practices that have made Jorge Luis, Pedro and Quimbro hopeless, even though they will certainly receive state support (perhaps by the time this text is published) and that, like many others, the Church – specifically Caritas Habana and the parishious parishioners of Christ the Redeemer – attends them with food , clothing and grooming and are also frequently visited by people who carry some help.
But, for those who are so vulnerable, falling victim to any act of vexation or voluntary forgetfulness, even if it is a simple “hairing”, is a lethal lunge to his already spoiled psych. A single stain is capable of tarnishing a mirror of very clear virtues, but luckily, positive attitudes have been imposed.
This year, moved by a terrible juncture of nature, the best tribute to José Martí – whose ideary like no other in this insula promotes an ethic of recognition of others above differences – have not been acts, but a rebirth of unprecedented social charity, a new air to refresh the dejected on these difficult days , well you can expect good things a society in which its members – protected from El Cobre by the most beautiful Marian advocation – give the the most beautiful Marian advocation – to charity. Ω