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The Chinese Doctor

If a Cuban tells you the phrase: "nor even the Chinese doctor can save you" , cross your fingers, because it means things will go really wrong with you and your possibilities to be successful are few. If it refers to health problems, then you have been predicted a sure decease.

This phrase is used frequently, but most of the people dont know that behind the legend there is also a real story dated in 1856. That year was one of the most unfortunate of all times in Santiago de Cuba; in that context the Asian practitioner became famous.

The morning of August 20th that year, the city awaked asking for mercy due to the Chinese Doctoreffects of an earthquake which was considered a bad sign. In fact the seismic activity continued and people ran to streets, squares and even to ships in the harbour. The fury of the sky joined to the one in earth when at night began to rain intensively with thunders and lightning. According to some chronicles written at that time, Santiago was struck by another earthquake the following day; the trembling and the heavy rain continued until the 29th; they seemed endless.

Although few persons were injured the material damages were relevant, thats why fraternal hands from other regions contributed to the reconstruction, ignoring they were becoming the bridge for a cholera epidemic. It is said that from October 8th to the 21st the disease widely spread.

All of the sudden an Asian man pretending to be a doctor appeared with a odd method to heal the disease. November brought the cruelty of the cholera and new earthquakes which affected several buildings where some ill persons and their companions were buried.

That man named Don Damián Morales had his own technique: he took the tendons under the arm and made them vibrate at the time that he threw of the skin that covers the nut of the neck until producing a swelling, unequivocal symptom of the wrong with two fingers of the right hand.

The painful procedure was similar to torture, though Morales also rubbed several parts of the body with a coin. Although it is said he could heal, the real secret was not getting contagious, in order to survive. Around 2 000 persons died of cholera, mainly poor people who were not saved.

What ever it was the credit or myth of that pretending doctor, the fact is that the phrase remained in the Cuban popular speech, and "nor even the Chinese doctor" could erase that sense of humor.