Fidel and ELAM: Living the Certainty of Dreams

Fidel and ELAM: Living the Certainty of Dreams
Fecha de publicación: 
25 November 2022
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Many stories are reminded again and again. Old and new dreams cross or intertwine inside the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), a colossal building built on the edge of the north coast west of Havana.

This has happened over the 23 years since that November 15th, 1999, when Fidel Castro, the Historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, opened up opportunities for thousands of young people, many of whom were still suffering the devastation of the great human and natural tragedy with which hurricanes George and Mitch hit Central America and the Caribbean.

Today, the number of students who have benefited from this project of solidarity and humanism—one of a kind worldwide— exceeds 30,630 graduates from all continents. While thousands of others go through the different levels of learning. In all of them beats the gratitude for hope come true.

At least that is the feeling Xiomy Bibiany Giraldo confesses, a 29-year-old girl in her fifth year at the Faculty of Medicine at General Calixto García University Hospital, in the Cuban capital.

A social leader and victim of armed violence due to the conflict in her native Colombia, she came to ELAM "thanks to the support Cuba gave to the peace process between my government and the guerrillas, positions were opened to access some two thousand scholarships”.

With visible sadness, he relives the days when “armed paramilitaries entered the municipality of San Pablo Sur de Bolívar where I lived with my family. For this reason, we had to move to another part of the country, to a small town of Afro-descendants called San Bernardo, in the Department of Cesar”.

Those were very difficult times for Xiomy because, parallel to the ravages of the war, she had to overcome the difficulties of being a single mother with two children.

Even when her dreams of becoming a doctor looked more distant, utopian every day..., she never gave up on them.

 “She had two jobs. It was the only way to cover our livelihood. However, she kept dreaming of medicine; but managing to study that career at a public university is very complicated. Most of those who enroll in Colombia, and graduate, are children of families that have a high social and economic position”.

For these and many other reasons, Xiomy describes the prospect of being here as wonderful.

“Not only for having changed my life, but my future and, in fact, that of my children, my family, my community. In general, all of us who are in this center have changed our lives and shown the humanitarian sense of being a doctor”.

She then evokes the almost two thousand inhabitants of her town who don’t have doctors, nurses, or open centers to receive health care.

“When I graduate, I want to return to San Bernardo to give back to the population all the knowledge learned by Cuban specialists. This is the place where I want to go to work to help my people.”

Nor does she hesitate to confess that “coming to this land, to Cuba, changes the vision and perception that you carry, because you understand that Cuba shares what it has, it does not give what they have to spare. Undoubtedly, the expectations with which we arrived have exceeded us.

“Being part of ELAM is to carry the Revolution in the heart, in the soul and show it to the world. I’m not going to get tired of saying how essential this island is for all vulnerable and low-income people.

"We have different nationalities and the same impossibility of receiving a free and high-quality university education such as that received in this institution."

Clinging to gratitude, this jovial and smiling girl, affirms to be part and certainty of the work forged by Fidel, which also means the commitment to establish herself as a doctor of science and conscience.

 “It’s the precept to which the Commander in Chief summoned us: ‘The most important thing must be his total consecration to the most noble and humane of trades: saving lives and preserving health. More than doctors, they will be enthusiastic guardians of the most precious of the human being; apostles, and creators of a more humane world', and we have a duty to fulfill it”.

No wonder, the collective memory always returns to that November 15th, 1999.

During the founding ceremony of the School and before those attending the IX Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, invited to the ceremony, Fidel announced that ELAM "as a simple symbol of what united we have to achieve, it intends to be a modest contribution from Cuba to the unity and integration of the peoples…”

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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