Alberto Felipe Rigñak Vaz arrived in Kenya in June 2018

On the occasion of Africa Day, 26Digital shares the twists and turns of a doctor from Las Tunas throughout that continent, and the “sort” of loyalties that have irretrievably tied him to his land.

Las Tunas.- Africa shines peacefully from its seductive gaze, enriched by the eternal strength of the first lineages that inhabited the Earth. From her messages it also comes to me, sometimes warm, others not so much, dressed in deserts and dressed in incredible and exotic vegetation, like the very cradle of the world.

Right away I want to know if there are lions and giraffes and elephants ... and he answers yes, but that Kenya, the country where he has lived the last two years is not a great safari, it is much more than that. And then history is imposed, between hilarious and sad, by the inequalities that for centuries have left tangible traces there.


Alberto Felipe Rigñak Vaz arrived in Kenya in June 2018Alberto Felipe Rigñak Vaz arrived in Kenya in June 2018. His head was full of confused thoughts. He had vague ideas of the climate and of the people, but when he stepped on solid ground the conjectures evaporated. His native land, Jobabo, weighed on him like a ballast, there he left the most precious thing of his 51 years, but it was not his first time outside Cuba, not even by the way ...

The Miracle Mission had previously taken him to Haiti. They needed expert hands and his were more than evaluated. Then he was head of the mission in Timor Leste, and finally the Kenya opportunity presented itself. He confesses that he did not think about it too much and went there with a half-empty "baggage", except for the desire to help, the bond with his loved ones and the constant evocation of his home.

The plastic surgeon and quemologue arrived in the African country as part of a contingent of 100 doctors from various hospital care specialties. He was fortunate to have three other Las Tunas companions with whom to talk about the land and share experiences. They were the first doctors to set foot on Kenyan soil on an official mission.

He tells me that the first thing they did was receive training, especially in relation to the functioning of the State there, current legislation, culture and characteristics of its Health System. He assures that it was like an injection of knowledge that materialized later in the brush with the locals. The English language, Swahili and 23 other dialects mediated communication.

El Checo, as affectionately half the province of Las Tunas knows the doctor, wakes up every morning in Kissi, a city that reminds him of Puerto Padre. He tells me that the weather is magnificent, with lush vegetation, five hours from the capital.

The hospital where he works is category 5, with state-of-the-art technology, although he very seriously confesses that his, in Jobabo, is 10 times better. He is the only specialist in the entire neighborhood and his healthcare center is public, has great competition with private ones, and this is where humble people come from, with few resources. But his personal fame attracts not so poor residents referred from other institutions.

Alberto Felipe Rigñak Vaz arrived in Kenya in June 2018IN AFRICA

“From the first month my name is “Makori,” which means a man who walks on the road. I like the nickname. I am, along with my colleague from Camagüey, the only permanent white here, so it is very difficult to go unnoticed.

“There is a lot of food in my city. Thanks to its climate, it is planted of everything that is in Cuba for the whole year. It has electricity, water, pluvial drainage, paved streets and certain development. The weather, the people, everything has been bearable. This African country shows a face of poverty and development, above all, of inequality, and that hurts...

“My biggest challenge has been caring for a large number of burned patients, mainly children with tragic stories. Traffic accidents, often with motorcycles, leave traces on the population that they cannot always erase.

"Anecdotes flood me ... A girl, Abnes, with Down syndrome who was burned without healing for seven years, can you imagine? The injuries were to the head and face. Immediately I began to heal and rebuild, especially the eyelids. I was caring for her for three long months and in the end we managed to heal her and she was able to return to school. It is easy to say, but it marked me in many indelible ways. For her family and the locals that was like a miracle.

“Look, I also don't forget Joice, a 16-year-old girl who suffered terrible leg injuries and is already discharged after almost a year of treatment, nor Jhon, a diabetic patient who I accidentally attended and asked me to please help him not lose his foot, and today he can walk without a problem. These results not only depend on me but on work teams and excellent professionals who place the name of Cuba on high.

"John went to the capital and a doctor asked him: 'What are you doing? Is your foot still the same? He answered: 'No, I came for my consultation. When the doctor examined him, he was surprised and asked: 'What happened to you? And the boy answered that he had been treated by Cuban doctors. Then the doctor said: "Congratulate them, you're cured! Imagine that news for him and for us.

“I give classes and training to hundreds of students, nurses and technicians who go through the Surgery service. Time slips by very easily. I miss Cuba and my family, the biggest thing I have, but I will take this piece of Africa with me when I return, I don't want to part with it.”


His answers, his evocations, his love for Africa and for Jobabo are a click away; he is also marked by a certain loss that still oppresses his heart beyond words.

In his emails are names and memories. It bears the "footprint" of a newborn boy who had an abscess and the hospital was on strike and he had to undertake the surgery alone. After six months she saw him again and her mother said: "You don't remember me, but I do remember you."

He mentions many other anecdotes from his Kenya, the one that has been sown in his chest without asking permission. He says goodbye with the promise of a reunion in the streets of Las Tunas and the pact to honor the forgotten continent, because it is no longer just a piece of land for him, now it is Joice, Abnes, Jhon, and the evocation of a Makori who will always be in the way.

Alberto Felipe Rigñak Vaz arrived in Kenya in June 2018