Friday, October 15, 2010

Trains’ Cemetery

Havana 215

The first impression of Havana for the casual visitor, besides its old buildings, its eclectic architecture and the hustle and bustle of the city all the day around, is of a place with one of the most outrageous and rundown public transportation system in the western hemisphere.

For Cubans, and specially, for people living in Havana (habaneros), the crisis of their transportation system has been pandemic for almost the last 50 years. In fact, more than of half of the city inhabitants had lived with it and dealt with it. Today, that crisis is part of their landscape and many can’t imagine Havana without its old buses crowded with people and its outrageous schedule times.

But, if it is pretty bad the capital city transportation system for the locals, it is worse when it comes to travel from Havana to anywhere beyond its premises. Foreigners don’t have a clue how old, trashy and rundown are Cubans buses and trains. Foreigners hold a powerful ticket to travel throughout Cuba: their dollars.

For Cubans, and especially for Cubans without dollars, travel to another place outside the skirts of Havana is a nightmare. And it is not only because their old equipment, it is the system as a whole.

As a matter of fact, beyond Varadero and cities close to Havana, the most appropriate way to travel is in train. But what an adventure! With only one rail transit line across the country and with old locomotives it is not a surprise to be engaged in a trip where you don’t know at what time it is going to star, and much less when it is going to end and where.

Ironically, in the past few months, Havana has been crowded with old rusted locomotives in parks, central locations in the city and places where it is not suppose you can find that old transportation system.

Word of mouth says it is part of a government project to create “the museum of the locomotives”. It is an irony, isn’t it?

When Cubans can’t find a humble seat in a humble decent train, their capital city is filling its empty spaces with old ramshackle locomotives. Maybe because their leaders never take a seat in one of them to travel across their impoverished country.

And that, my friends, is named Socialism !!!!!!!