Health and Education


In the area around the hotel, there were both traditional looking pharmacies and ones that look more like herb shops. In both customers waited in front of sparsely stocked shelves. The doctor who talked with us painted an interesting picture. Each person has a doctor, who serves 500 people. It reminded me of the Chinese system of rural doctors whose job was to keep people well and it is quite likely Cuba’s system was modeled after it since China has been so supportive. The Chinese village healers have to house the sick people until they were well, an incentive for not letting them get sick. In Cuba, doctors do not house the sick people, but they do make house calls even on Sundays. Cubans have been forced to return to using healing herbs since so many pharmaceuticals are made in the US and cannot be imported. The results are quite positive and should prove interesting if a comparative study is done in the relative efficacy of the systems.

View from My Room towards a small park

Streams of school children passed through the plaza after school, the younger ones in red skirts and pants and the older ones in mustard colored clothes. One day, a woman who said she was an independent guide accosted me. Being independent means she had to find her own clients. I told her I didn’t need a guide, but she wanted to practice her English. It turned into an hour-long monologue on the education system. If she wanted to practice and be corrected, I had no chance, but she spun a tale that refuted some of the claims I had heard. I listened to her story with a grain of salt, maybe it was true. She told me she had sent her son to a school in the country because the education was better there. But he doesn’t get fed well and is always hungry. He returns home on weekends and she sends food with him on Monday but he shares it with his friends and is still hungry. She takes all day on Wednesday to go visit him and take more food. At one point, she complained how dirty the toilets were, and she had stayed to clean them. The boys had refused to do the work themselves.

When we parted, I had a new perspective on the education system. Another basic service that suffered from lack of money and from her description, structural flaws.