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realclearworld

Dr. Carlos J. (Juan) Finlay — Remembering Our History

Finlay

With the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal celebrated on August 15, 2014, let’s not forget that a Cuban physician from Camaguey was partly responsible for the completion of this feat. During the construction of the canal, yellow fever/malaria was more lethal than the current Ebola virus in Africa. It is estimated that 20,000 died in Panama during this period due to yellow fever.

And, yet, the majority of Americans give credit to this discovery to Dr. Walter Reed – who, by the way, gave due credit to Dr. Finlay.

With seven Cuban-Americans serving in the U.S. Congress, I think that it would be appropriate for them to enact a law to recognize Dr. Finlay’s contributions to humanity. Similarly, I think that someone should nominate him for the Nobel Prize in Medicine posthumously.

To read an op-ed that I wrote on this matter, click on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140524151537-11570625-unsung-heroes-forgotten-inspirations

3 comments to Dr. Carlos J. (Juan) Finlay — Remembering Our History

  • Rayarena

    The Dr. Finlay example is truly shocking, not so much the Rodriguez example, because, well, there are many performers [who regardless of their ethnicity] never get the recognition that they deserve. The arts are a fickled and difficult career.

    However, I always found it jarring that there are Walter Reed hospitals across the USA, but nothing [not even a small plaque] in honor of Finlay who laid down his life to prove his theory. I always bring it back to Cubans, because we Cubans are nonchalant and cavalier about things. While, American arrogance and prejudice is at the root of the refusal to recognize Finlay, we Cubans have not done enough to publicize him. A PBS special, a movie or a few books would go a long way. We don't have the think tanks, institutions or for that matter, we don't provide the backing to artists that might want to do a project on Finlay. As an example, several years ago, Cuban American filmmaker, Leon Ichaso, made the excellent film, Bitter Sugar. He had to mortgage his house in order to do the film, because Cuban Americans would not support him. He sent letters to countless Cuban millionaires and the only ones that helped him were the Bacardi's with $10,000. $10,000 from the billionaire Bacardi's is like 10 cents from an average person. If we don't fight for recognition, if we are not proactive, we are going to be overlooked. Let me give another example, a few years ago, I suggested that a certain Cuban cultural center in NYC put a plaque on the side of the building where Reinaldo Arenas lived. He lived in NYC's Hell's Kitchen. My suggestion wasn't even considered. I got the idea after going to Paris and noting how the French constantly recognize all of their notables. It seems that every other building in Paris has a plaque on the side commemorating this or that important person that lived there.

    It's very easy in the USA with the anti-Hispanic predisposition of most Americans to dismiss Cubans as just another group of fruit pickers or gardeners, unless we do something to assert ourselves.

  • Rayarena

    The Dr. Finlay example is truly shocking, not so much the Rodriguez example, because, well, there are many performers [who regardless of their ethnicity] never get the recognition that they deserve. The arts are a fickled and difficult career.

    However, I always found it jarring that there are Walter Reed hospitals across the USA, but nothing [not even a small plaque] in honor of Finlay who laid down his life to prove his theory. I always bring it back to Cubans, because we Cubans are nonchalant and cavalier about things. While, American arrogance and prejudice is at the root of the refusal to recognize Finlay, we Cubans have not done enough to publicize him. A PBS special, a movie or a few books would go a long way. We don't have the think tanks, institutions or for that matter, we don't provide the backing to artists that might want to do a project on Finlay. As an example, several years ago, Cuban American filmmaker, Leon Ichaso, made the excellent film, Bitter Sugar. He had to mortgage his house in order to do the film, because Cuban Americans would not support him. He sent letters to countless Cuban millionaires and the only ones that helped him were the Bacardi's with $10,000. $10,000 from the billionaire Bacardi's is like 10 cents from an average person. If we don't fight for recognition, if we are not proactive, we are going to be overlooked. Let me give another example, a few years ago, I suggested that a certain Cuban cultural center in NYC put a plaque on the side of the building where Reinaldo Arenas lived. He lived in NYC's Hell's Kitchen. My suggestion wasn't even considered. I got the idea after going to Paris and noting how the French constantly recognize all of their notables. It seems that every other building in Paris has a plaque on the side commemorating this or that important person that lived there.

    It's very easy in the USA with the anti-Hispanic predisposition of most Americans to dismiss Cubans as just another group of fruit pickers or gardeners, unless we do something to assert ourselves, and we are not doing anything and our valuable co-nationalists are being overlooked.

  • asombra

    "Celebrities of science"? Celebrities? WTF is that? Sheesh.

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