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Navajo Vice President Nez Visits Cuba

Navajo Vice President Nez Visits Cuba
March 14
10:33 2016

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez visited Cuba last month.

In a cultural exchange, from February 21-28, Nez learned about the island nation’s health care system. Seventeen people – ranging from community members to health care professionals – took part in the exchange sponsored by Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC).
The week-long visit was focused on gathering data and experiencing Cuba’s health care system.

“The most gratifying part of the exchange came from direct contact with Cubans and hearing their perspectives on caring for their land and one another,” Nez said.

He described the Cuban people as being proud with a strong sense of nationalism and duty.

“They are a proud group that has survived countless challenges,” Nez added.

There are few health issues in Cuba, where the populace eats a steady diet of rice and beans, which are farmed in their communities along with many medicinal plants, Nez said.

MEDICC, a non-profit, was founded in 1997 and seeks to foster a better relationship between the U.S., Cuban and global health communities. The organization considers the Cuban health care system to be a model for underserved communities.

Though the Navajo Nation and Cuba are distinct cultures, Nez does see similarities in their love for the land and their people.

“Cubans are the embodiment of resilience,” Nez said.

Poverty is rampant on the island nation, located some 90 miles off the Florida coast. Despite its poverty, Cuba’s health care system does boast some successes.

Its infant mortality rate, for example, is lower than in the U.S. – and among the lowest in the world. The life expectancy in Cuba is 78 years; the highest on the American continent. Cuba’s suicide rate is also low.

“Everybody knows each other, so it’s easy to see the warning signs,” Nez said.

The U.S. severed ties with Cuba near the end of the Eisenhower Administration. Only in recent months has President Barack Obama sought to normalize ties with Cuba.

“(Navajos) are blessed because we have the Navajo philosophy of T’a’a’ ho’ a’jite’ego (self reliance),” Nez added. “Don’t forget, we’re in this together.”

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