Contests and Cuban spirit preparing for the future
In a sewing machine, a Cuban psychologist gives the last stitches to a mask that has been invented for an exceptional draw in these times of crisis. The protective mouth mask is meant not only to prevent the winner from getting coronavirus, but also to transmit positive energy to his thousands of confined friends who enjoy spending time in Social Media these days, until, at 9 pm the time to applaud healthcare personnel arrives, an everyday homage paid in many parts of the world to those who face the epidemic in the first line of duty.
The Contest is an excuse and therapy to keep her friends’ spirits up, emerging from the need of not falling apart in an adverse situation like this one. This psychologist could have posted a very professional speech on Facebook about the psychological necessity to engage in fun activities in hard times, but that wasn’t her objective, it was practical entertainment instead.
Between sewing and embroidery, it took her a day to make the mask, and when she finished it, she published a photo on the internet and set up a knowledge competition for people to interact and forget for a while about their daily problems and the harshness of confinement. People had to guess a mysterious animal, which was none other than the manatee, a marine mammal well known to the Taíno Indians who lived in the Caribbean since it was part of their diet.
The call had hundreds of responses on Facebook. Psychologists, writers, actresses, plastic artists and other professionals participated, asking for clues when they were stuck and in the process commented on their tribulations, anguishes and personal recipes to keep going in these uncertain times.
The winner was the granddaughter of a famous Cuban diplomat who played a leading role during the 1962 Missile Crisis, when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. As the virus has proven to be as deadly as any bomb or rocket, sixty years after that famous episode of the Cold War, the winner received her mask as if it was the best anti-aircraft defense shield.The procedure of delivery complied with the social distancing requirements set forth. The psychologist came down from her apartment in the Havana neighborhood of El Vedado with a three-meter pole and the face mask hanging from the tip, and without any physical contact, the winner received it, putting an end to the sweepstake, which was intented by its creator as a collective emotional rescue operation also.So successful was this first riddle that there was a second one. On this occasion, the game had two moments, it was necessary to discover a flower and a tree, which was the Siguaraya, that in Cuba has a sacred meaning. This tree inspired the great Cuban sonero Benny Moré, “El Bárbaro del Ritmo” (the Barbarian of Rhythm), to write and sing a well-known track that says: “In my Cuba there is a bush, that can’t be cut down without permission… That bush is born in the tropical rain forest, that bush has power / that bush is… Siguaraya”. On this occasion, the prize consisted of a mobile Mache paper ornament, and to win it hundreds of Internet users participated in the online contest putting aside their sorrows, which was ultimately the objective.
Thus, with psychology and sense of humor to keep a great mood, the days and nights in Cuba have passed. Safeguarded by an effective health strategy, the epidemic has been contained and now the foundations are being laid to prepare for the exit of this crisis. Doctors, psychologists and professionals from various specialties are currently planning the immediate future, the new normal, in which health and safety are priorities in any sector, especially in tourism, the primary engine of the economy. Cuba is one of the countries in the world that has faced this challenge with advantage.
The value of its specialists and the creativity of its people, the proven effectiveness of its health system and a strategy committed to building a solid foundation for recovery avoiding simple and short-term objectives or siren songs, can turn Cuba into a sanctuary. This is a Caribbean island blessed by nature with medicine as a strength. And the preparations to turn adversity into opportunity are in motion, accompanied by riddles, laughter and a good Cuban spirit to welcome the future in the best possible way.