IT’S IN THE SIERRA MAESTRA

1 03 2011

Whenever I’m staying somewhere, even if just for a few days, I like to buy a local newspaper. It gives you a glimpse into the life of a particular town or city.

It is the same here in Santiago de Cuba. Here the local newspaper is called the Sierra Maestra. It comes out each Saturday and its cover price is 0.20CUP (less than a British penny), although it is most frequently seen being sold on the streets by pensioners for 1CUP (£0.03), as a means to supplement their income. The first time that I came to Cuba, I imagined that the pensioners selling Granma (the daily official organ of the Cuban Communist Party) on the streets of Havana were veteran party militants, still pushing the party line. It was only later that I discovered that they were simply pensioners trying to make ends meet on their meagre pensions.

This week’s edition of the Sierra Maestra contains, amongst others, the following news items:

Tributes have been paid, in the form of floral offerings in the names of Fidel and Raul Castro at the tomb of Jose Marti, to the fighters in the second War of Independence against the Spanish, in 1895.

Fidel Castro has been elected as a delegate to the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April, from the Jose Marti district of Santiago de Cuba. His brother Raul was elected as a delegate from Mayari Arriba. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the two brothers not participating in the Party Congress, but there are formalities to be followed.

The second week of March will see the first step of the 50th Vaccination Campaign against polio, with 41,400 children between the ages of 30 days and 2 yrs, 11 months and 29 days, being vaccinated in the province. A Santiago resident will celebrate her 101st birthday, with her five remaining (out of seven) children; twenty grandchildren; twenty great grandchildren and .four great great grandchildren. Before the Triumph of the Revolution, she had worked for miserly salaries in the collection of coffee, because the plantation owners had used the difficult situation to exploit them. The article concludes: “Dora had the luck to be born in Cuba where a revolution was made by the humble for the humble.”

A new emergency psychiatric ward has been opened in a local general hospital.

 A provincial tribunal has sentenced a number of employees of the cement company of Santiago for the crime of “malversacion”, the misdirection of official resources. In this case, 600 concrete roof beams had been siphoned off into the black market. The director of the company received five years’ imprisonment; whilst several others received between two and four years each.

 An agricultuaral co-operative in the Jose Marti urban centre of Santiago has been growing rabbits for the last ten years (see my earlier post re. rabbit breeding), alongside green beans, lettuce, cucumber, beetroot, chives, garlic, cabbage and parsley. The fourteen workers there earn an average of 1000CUP per month (£30.00 – more than average).

A rural community, named Palenque, in the Tercer Frente municipality, has been telling of its difficulties with electricity supply. They should receive electricity from a sub-station for four hours daily, between 6pm and 10pm. However, the sub station has never received an adequate supply of oil to function for the whole month. In fact, they have been a whole month without supply. This has led local people to illegally hack into a nearby supply from a main road. All of their problems are in the process of being resolved, but the people responsible for ensuring their supply have been negligent.

An analysis of the performance of local companies had found poor performance and utilisation of resources. Lazaro Esposito, the popular First Secretary of the Communist Party in the province, said that “in some places we are selling our souls to the devil”. He said that, although results in the province are improving, 2011 had started badly.

 Two pages are dedicated to the week of activities in Santiago to mark the 20th International Book Fair, including talks, performances and concerts.

An article commemorates the 50th anniversary of the local oncological hospital.

First Vice President of the Council of State, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, undertook an extensive visit last weekend of health facilities in local municipalities.

 An event had been held at the university to mark the 35th Anniversary of the adoption of the Socialist Constitution of Cuba.

Such is life here in an average week in Santiago de Cuba.

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4 responses

1 03 2011
pat

How I miss trying (because of my lousy Spanish) to read the Sierra Maestra. Thanks so much for this.

1 03 2011
Cathy Bostelaar

A real glimpse into life in Cuba. Keep posting.

6 03 2011
Brian Grunté

My wife and I will be traveling to Santiago De Cuba for the first time on Thursday. I was under the impression tourists were only allowed to use the CUC. How do we go about getting MN and how do we know when and where we can use it? I have never seen separate prices on things etc.

7 03 2011
leytono

Tourists can use MN as well. You get it from places called CADECAs (casas de cambio). The CADECAs in the big hotels do not stock MN. Nearly everywhere here is priced in MN, unless it is a place predominantly for tourists, or some bars. You will not see seperate prices – a place either charges in CUC or in MN

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