The earth is shaking all across Cuba, not only in Havana
La Playita, in Baracoa, is one of the most vulnerable communities in the city in the face of natural disasters and the of political and economic reforms underway on the island. Photo: Marianela Gonzalez/Oxfam
While President Obama's visit has put Havana in the spotlight, more remote communities are preparing for earthquakes and natural disasters.
Those who live in La Flora, a community in Baracoa on the Eastern tip of Cuba, have little knowledge of the historic events unfolding in Havana these days.
Meanwhile, everyone in the Caribbean capital is talking about the first visit by a US president to Cuba in 88 years —In banks, on public park benches, in school yards, on street corners in old neighborhoods and in the local bars, everyone has an opinion.
But at the other end of the island, in communities like La Flora that are far removed from national and international politics, people are mostly concerned with making ends meet.
In Havana, these people are referred to as "the people from the interior.”
A literal and figurative fault line that separates the two ends of the island doesn’t make headlines, but it clearly marks a border between the Cuba that captures international imagination and the Cuba that no one will see—it also is the source of ongoing seismic activity.
"What would happen to families who live on the streets or far from the city if they don’t receive this kind of preparation?" Yarima, 29 year-old mother of two, asked when volunteers from the Cuban Red Cross and Oxfam staff deliver earthquake preparation training to her community.
Since January 17th of this year, the earth has been shaking in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and Baracoa with unusual frequency. Those who live in this area of high seismic risk, remember the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and how affected people had to run to the mountains with nothing, leaving behind all they had.
If she had to put a name to one of those quakes, like they do for hurricanes and tropical cyclones in the Caribbean, Rosita, from Baracoa, says she would choose a "famous person, but foreign, like Picasso, the Beatles... or Obama!"
Rosita is visually impaired, but she is a well-known figure in Baracoa. She is actually well known in most of Cuba. For years she composed songs for children's shows and competitions that were very popular on Cuban television in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today, her home is where people from the community meet to plan and prepare for natural disasters. She is at the center of weaving a social fabric that can be used as a weapon of first defense when an earthquake hits.
In La Flora, Baracoa, volunteers from the Cuban Red Cross, along with Oxfam and other local organizations and INGOs raise awareness on the risks of an earthquake and what to do when one strikes. They also take into account the diverse needs of the community, working directly with women, girls and boys, and older people. Photo: Marianela Gonzalez/Oxfam