9 Digits & A Daughter

Damaris at her front door

Damaris at her front door

Damaris has a very interesting story.  At 56, she has been through a lot.  Like most older deaf in Cuba, she received limited education due to lack of communication access. However, her remaining hearing allowed her to learn to read very well.  Damaris is Hard of Hearing, is able to speak clearly enough and has some ability to understand spoken words.  Yet, she feels most comfortable among the deaf and enjoys socializing with them.   

Damaris was married, and has two boys- one living with her, and another living elsewhere in the Guantánamo area.  She did have a daughter, but that is part of a tragedy she endured…  After a social event in which Damaris was hanging out with deaf friends, her husband, in a jealous rage used a machete to attack her and chopped off her hand past her thumb on one hand, and severely cut up her other arm that it had to be amputated below the elbow.  He also used the machete against his daughter during the same episode and killed her.   While the exact details as to what happened to the husband are murky, another deaf friend- Candido- helped her get away from the husband and gave her some protection until the authorities could deal with him.  

Her recovery resulted in some of the Deaf from the church to visit and offer support to her.  She did not know Christ at that time, and was struggling with  the loss of her daughter and the use of her hands.  You see, one of the most cruel things you can do to a Deaf person who depends on sign language to communicate and socialize with others… is to cut off their hands.  You can imagine how devastating that would be for Damaris. It's not just her social life, but try functioning mostly on your own with only one thumb.  As for her newfound faith, some deaf christians invited her to church and she accepted Jesus into her life.  She enjoys the deaf prayer and bible study and deaf camps.  She continues to enjoy socializing and spending time with her friends. 


Despite the traumatic experience she endured, she has turned to her faith to sustain her.  Yet, she still struggles with the experience and how it has severely impacted her life.  Some things take a lot of time…  Damaris lives in a little shack patched together by parts of old tin roof quite a distance from the Church but is not deterred as she loves being part of all aspects of the church and deaf ministry activities even if it means she needs to walk far on a daily basis.  

She also walks to downtown Guantánamo regularly to sell plastic bags- one of the many different ways people can earn a little bit of money.   One interesting thing observed in Cuba… because of the serious lack of just about everything-  other than larger Government run stores- most other restaurants, markets, stores do not provide a bag for merchandise people buy. (Sometimes, none of the stores have them because they have not received a shipment from overseas) If you are downtown and realize you need a bag for something, you just seek out a bag peddler and purchase a bag for 2 pesos.  These bags are identical to the plastic bags your groceries are placed in at just about every store in the U.S. that we take for granted.  They purchase these bags for $50 cents each, and sell for 2 pesos (USD equivalent to purchasing these bags for 2 cents each and selling for 8 cents each)


Mike Ver Velde