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Miguel Arias Sánchez: I was born in Regla in 1949. That’s where I went to elementary and high school. Afterwards I took courses to be a teacher and did that for several years. I did my military service and as soon as I got out I studied formally to be a teacher graduating at the University of Havana. I taught in classrooms for nearly 20 years. I had the opportunity to travel and see another reality. I returned and am currently doing different self-employed activities.

Divers in Cuba and their Health

August 7, 2017 |

Miguel Arias Sanchez

Illustration by Carlos

HAVANA TIMES — Anybody who hears the word “diver” has an image of a man dressed in a wet suit, a mask on his face and an oxygen tank pop into their back, a person who fishes or investigates the depths of the world’s seas, reportó dpa.

However, there is a new kind of diver in Cuba that has nothing to with this image. These divers don’t dive into the depths of the sea, but are found on the surface, without a wet suit, without a mask, walking through the city’s streets day after day, from the afternoon to the late evening, going directly to trash dumpsters to start working.

They stick their hands into all of that waste, without gloves or a mouth cover, looking for something they can still make use of. Sometimes, they are after food scraps for an animal they have at home. Others look for dissimilar objects, like clothes, shoes which somebody has thrown out and can still be used after being fixed up a little.

And so, they take out everything they consider to still have some use left in them from trash dumpster to dumpster.

But in Cuba, there are health regulations which ban this kind of activity, which as well as being unhygienic, gives a very bad impression to anyone who watches how a person submerges almost half of their body into a trash dumpster, even with waste in a really bad state. It’s not a positive or pleasant image at all.

It’s true that many of these divers have a very low income or are unemployed and this is the way they have found to make some money, but the price they have to pay is too high: their health.

There’s a slogan that says: Hygiene is health, but these divers, immersed in their struggle to survive, don’t seem to have read it or quite simply don’t care.

Note: although the majority are men, there are also more than a few women who practice this activity.

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  • Eden Wong

    Dumpster divers are common all over the world. There’s guys in the US (starting in San Francisco years ago) who’ve turned it into an art form. The garbage sifters in India are an example on a national scale, it employs millions of people.

    The issue in Cuba is that they’re way behind the times in recycling so some of the most common items that are worth money elsewhere are useless in Cuba, thus a huge amount of waste goes to the landfill sites or out to sea that should be reused/ recycled.

    Cuba is not unique. It’s an unfortunate but common occurrence everywhere, the one difference in Cuba being there are way less hazardous materials in their garbage.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Unfortunately Eden much of the garbage in Cuba doesn’t get to landfill, but is just strewn around the landscape. For several kilometres along the coastline by the Baracoa and Salado supposed ‘playas’ west of Havana there is virtually a continuous mess of garbage. As so often in Cuba, nobody cares. But the Propaganda Department of the PCC takes time to refresh the ‘Che’ Fidel and Raul slogans on the buildings there, they would be better employed as garbage collectors rather than adding to the visual mess.

      • Eden Wong

        Are you saying that much of the Havana garbage is literally dumped out of the trucks onto the open ground with no further management whatsoever?

        • Terry Downey

          Eden, I know what you mean… but lets leave Carlyle to continue to negatively romanticize the state of Cuba to stroke his twisted negative agenda and ego. Let him invent whatever truth he needs to support his distorted views. He gets off on that.

          • Eden Wong

            Please Terry, mindless rhetoric has no place in any discussions I initiate.

            It was simple, straightforward question. Nothing more.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Terrry is pursuing denial. All he has to do, is visit the sites I described to verify what I wrote. (He won’t.) My comment about the Propaganda Department employees is that they would be more beneficially engaged by clearing up garbage than painting slogans.

          • Eden Wong

            With all due respect Carlyle your explanation shows that your original comment was exaggerated and misleading. ALL developing countries have garbage issues, many of them much worse than Cuba’s. I made a simple observation and you as usual try to turn it into something bigger.

            Cuba is already enough of a disaster on its own. Nothing needs to be spun/twisted into even worse light.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            My comment Eden was not exaggerated. The garbage stretches for some 5 kilometres and the swimming pool at Playa Baracoa is half filled with garbage. i have only visited some thirty odd countries many of them so-called ‘developing countries’ and have not seen such a mess anywhere else. If you doubt, why not just go and look rather than making unfounded accusations.

          • Eden Wong

            Carlyle, you just can’t help yourself, can you?

            You are so stuck on your one-trick-pony that even when it’s clearly pointed out that you’re off on your own tangent and trying to piggyback on my observation with something much worse you still can’t stop with the BS.

            You’re just as bad as the pro Castro nutbars here. You’re the very same as they are.

            And your claim that Cuba’s garbage issue is worse than anywhere you’ve ever been is just plain dumb. I guess you’ve never been to many places in Central/South America, Asia, the entire Indian Subcontinent or Africa either.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          No, our garbage goes to the landfill. The garbage which I accurately described (anyone can check by going to the Salado and Baracoa playas) must haven taken dozens of trips by people -whether by small trucks, horse and buggy or cars. I cannot say how much of it comes from Havana, but as you know, the streams and rivers in Havana are popular spots for dumping rubbish.