Thursday, January 19, 2012

About Havana’s landscapes and Barbacoas

Tuesday at 9:21 pm, a building collapses in one of the most crowded neighbourhoods in Havana: it is Centro Habana at the intersection of Salud and Infanta, 10 families were living there. Today, the report said four people are dead and still the situation is confusing. Cuba’s government lasted 17 hours to say a word, but independent bloggers put in the social network maps pictures and names (see the picture on the left).
Unfortunately, that is not uncommon in Castro’s Cuba. Havana city is lacking 600 thousands houses for Cubans, but instead Fidel and Raul Castro’s regime had preferred to build luxuries hotels to their favourite citizens: western tourist.
I don’t go to overwhelm with numbers, statistics: pictures tell stories. And this is the story of the city where I was born. Look at the pictures !!!
Before 1959 it was a very nice Hotel, today is lodging mice and street cats. Galeano and Neptuno, Downtown Havana. The picture was taken in September 2010.

A view from the side of the same building:
Just 5 blocks away you can contrast how Castro’s regime treats tourists. Hotel Central Park, Neptuno and Prado (just 5 blocks from the picture of the top).
Two blocks away you will find the old Capitol building where, in old times, the republic had the Senate and the Congress... of course, when Cuba was a Democracy. Today, in the back of the building you can see this face:

What you are seeing here is three little nests (apartments?). No, no, just a few metres square with the well known “Barbacoas”: a false floor at the half of the high of the building, holding the bed and a few things of the “very happy owners”, Cubans. Just look at the arrows. By the way, in the balcony you can catch a glimpse of the “running water” system an average Cuban family has: drums fill with stagnant water.
Another view of “Barbacoas” in the next picture:

These “happy owners” are living in Galeano and San Rafael, Downtown Havana and close to one of the biggest multi-level stores... in good times (long long time ago).
For the locals, Havana is well known as SAINT LAZARUS, after the very popular saint that Cubans worship. Do you have any clue why? Here is the hint: Saint Lazarus is depicted with a pair of CRUTCHES... and Havana is massively held by big wooden poles, as you can see in the following pictures:

A view from the front of the same building:

In the 70’s and early 80’s that store was selling clothing in the so-called “Parallel Market” without the rationing card (you should know that in Cuba everything has been controlled by the government, personal supplies as clothing and food included). Today that is what is left of that store – before Castro, it was famous as a jewellery store, expropriated by the regime-. The store is settled in the intersection of Galeano and San Rafael, Downtown Havana.
Cubans are very inventive people and the necessity of a place to live had made them to even build improvised little nest like this:

In the top of a crumbling building and made it with wood and any sorted materials and settled in Neptuno and Amistad, Downtown Havana, actually two blocks away from the luxury hotel I showed at the beginning of this post.
The left arrow is showing a little cage with a bird and to the right a plastic seat, probably from one of the state-run stores, show that people is living there.
I don’t want to overwhelm anybody, but I just want to show a last picture:

Above you are watching what it was a house in the past, today artificially divided as you can see in its balcony with a little wall (right arrow). The left arrow shows the signs of deterioration the building had suffered: the roof collapsed and part of the ceiling joists are exposed to the elements.
That is just in front of one of the most famous hardware store in the past, and even in the present: "Feito y Cabezon", Reina Street, Downtown Havana.
This is just a glimpse of what the actual Havana, for the Cubans, is. So, what happened Tuesday at night was another sad tragedy in a city crumbling down in pieces. What a life !!!!

Nota: all the pictures were taken in September 2010 in Havana, Cuba