Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A long journey through debris

Walking along Monte Avenue in Havana is like a walk through a surrealistic dream. The city is making faces to you at every corner. The long gallery of small stores, cafes and dazzling places ended in the huge Market of “Monte”; at least that was the landscape of Havana in 1980. Since then, 30 years had gone in a blink and the streamer avenue is not even its own shadow.A long journey through debris

Where there was a hotel, today is a scorchy place crowded with little tables full of handicrafts made by artisans, the building beside collapsed long time ago. Many of the small stores had been transformed in humid offices crowded with people and yellowish documents, many of them wasting their time in daily gossips. The majority of the big stores became part of the long franchises selling old items in CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency). But here and there you could find holes and spaces before covered with buildings and stores disappeared today.

Those are the wounds of a city that has been collapsing since 1959. After every hurricane or tropical storm or due to the age of many of the buildings and the lack of the maintenance of the city, Havana looks today like the mouth of the beggar you can find in every church’s porch: black holes in and old denture that is collapsing day after day.

In a city that already is a labyrinth of building collapsed, the sound of the fire truck is telling you the new address of the next victim of the age and the insensibility of a government who cares more for a foreigner vacationing in Varadero rather than their citizens dying in any building. For years you saw those places shored up and you already knew that construction was at risk of collapse. People who were living there knew that, but they didn’t have place to go and the consequence was their remains under the debris after any storm, rainy day or even a sunny morning.

How many people are living in buildings at risk of collapse in Havana?

Who knows! The government never publish that statistics. That is the other side of the story: the silence of the culprit.

There is another problem that the Cuban newspaper silences. There are abandoned buildings that had been sacked by people in need of bricks and any construction material. Sadly, those people had finished their sad journey through this life under the debris of the same building they were sacking to repair their homes. Stories like this are well-known in Havana, but the government again never reveal those numbers.

Statistics, human beings and personal belongings are the daily victims of a regime who play the humanitarian role sending goods and medicines to Venezuela.

You don’t have to detour your daily stroll through Havana to discover those “black holes” within the city. If you are in downtown Havana, close to Central Park (Parque Central in Spanish), or even in “Habana Libre” (once Havana Hilton), you don’t need to walk too much to discover a small little park where a building was raised: a few blocks away, and you will see the tomb of any building transformed in an ugly little park.

Those are the only social services that the Cuban authorities had raised from the debris. Today, there is no municipality in Havana free of those wounds: from Old Havana to the most exclusive Siboney (home of many of the Cuban officials): Havana is long a journey through debris.