SANTIAGO DE CUBA.–The city's Santa Ifigenia Cemetery began the day, yesterday December 6, with a group of young people arriving who had participated in the procession of thousands to honor Fidel, on the first anniversary of his death.
Just ten minutes later, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, joined them in a tribute they had been wanting to make for some time, to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, who was a staunch supporter of the National Cochlear Implant Program.
The 15 young people in the group had all received cochlear implants at an early age, allowing them to enjoy a world full of sound and, above all, opportunity. All the more reason to travel to this site and place a flower beside the boulder where Fidel's ashes rest, and say, "Thank you."
After observing the changing of the guard ceremony at the tombs of Mariana Grajales, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, José Martí, and Fidel, the group of youth, along with doctors who had taken care of them since they were toddlers, paid their respects to all four, with Raúl offering details about each monumental gravesite, their histories and even the materials used, while conversing with the young people about the National Cochlear Implant Program, which he described as "one of the most humane works I know of."
They talked about the first experiences in the 1990s, and how in 2005, on Fidel's initiative, the program was strengthened, making possible implants for 430 patients to date, mostly very young children.
The operation may cost as much as 60,000 USD in other countries, but is provided free of charge in Cuba.
This was all discussed as the group toured the historic cemetery, including the graves of María Cabrales, Antonio Maceo's widow, and the family gravesite where the remains of Josué and Frank País rest.
Raúl presented Dr. Sandra Bermejo, audiology expert advisor at the Ministry of Public Health, with an impressive photograph taken the night of October 10 this year, when the new pathway uniting the mausoleums of Mariana Grajales, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, José Martí and Fidel was inaugurated.
"Thanks for the encounter," he wrote on the back of the photo, with the young Cubans responding that they were the grateful ones.