ASUNCION – Soxchi Eliseo Benitez, the first doctor from Paraguay’s Maka Indian tribe, on Wednesday said he wants to practice among his native community near Asuncion once he graduates from medical school in Cuba.
Benitez, who is married to a Cuban woman, just received his authorization to work as a doctor in Paraguay after studying general medicine for six years in Santiago de Cuba, he told state-run Paraguay TV.
He said he wants to attend to the health care needs of the Maka tribe around the city of Mariano Roque Alonso, 20 km (13 mi.) from Asuncion, where his people have lived since 1942 after moving from their native Chaco region.
“I want to work in ... my community, since there we don’t get medical attention every day,” he said.
His incorporation into the ranks of physicians working with the Public Health Ministry was hailed on Tuesday by Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who personally congratulated Benitez and his wife and welcomed them to Mburuvicha Roga, the presidential residence.
“You are a great example for all your people, and we hope that you will not be the only one to become a doctor or other professions, within the community,” said Cartes at the meeting, according to the president’s office.
The Maka physician initially made his living selling handicrafts in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second city, when a former teacher of his told him about the availability of scholarships to study medicine in Cuba.
About 75 percent of Paraguay’s 116,000 indigenous residents live in extreme poverty after they were driven from their ancestral lands during the 1954-1989 Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship and in the first decade of democracy thereafter.