January 2015


Photos of the ceiling in the main hallway and the roof parapets.

At 885 41st Street between Avenue 26 and Conill B in Nuevo Vedado there is a beautiful six-story building with some seventeen family apartment units dating from the late 1950s that by some miracle is still standing. The building is currently in a state of disrepair despite repeated appeals to local authorities made at various times by its most concerned residents. Up till now the only action taken has been a sloppy paint job to its facade, hallways and common areas. All of this has, of course, been brought to the full attention of the local governmental representative, who seems to lack the ability to find a solution to this problem.

The parapets at the roof are in such poor repair that they appear to be in danger of imminent collapse. As a result, those who are aware of situation make a point of walking on the other side of the street lest they become victims of falling debris. Others, however, continue to walk blissfully unaware along the sidewalk below.

This is yet one more of the many examples of physical deterioration resulting from governmental apathy. Though building residents may be owners of the individual apartments, the building itself remains the property of the state. Resident’s salaries and pensions are, of course, insufficient to cover the costs of maintenance since most of the necessary materials can only be purchased with hard currency (or CUCs).

Also, because of low water pressure and the increase in crime, residents have been forced to install heavy individual nickel-lined water tanks and metal security bars, which have added additional weight to the building’s structure that was not foreseen by the building’s architects and engineers at the time of its construction.

Adding yet another health concern for the families living there are the four enormous original water tanks, which have remained uncovered for some twenty years. One of the residents has expanded his unit into parts of the hallway that serve as sanitation areas without any responsible governmental agency taking action to prevent him from doing so.

All these situations have, I repeat, been brought to the attention of the official local representative and to the UMIV (Municipal Bureau of Privately Owned Housing) as well as to the corresponding local governmental body, whose president is a resident of the neighborhood.

16 January 2015

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December has for decades always been a month of circuses, but, in the economically failed regimens, the circus is always present: “If there’s no bread, give them circuses*,” says an old refrain.

The principal actors at this year-end have been the unstocked farmers markets which, upon closing their doors, have given way to improvised fairs where, in place of food, police have abounded.

Yesterday on Monday, when I went to take a turn using the Internet, I took the P3 Bus, at the 26th and 41st stop, the closest to my house. The bus had barely made it past the next two stops when all of us passengers who were travelling to Playa** had to get off at 26th and 25th. The route was detoured due to an agricultural fair that was taking place on 24th and 17th, next to the farmers market at that location — which, by the way, was empty and closed off.

Three trucks filled with sweet potatoes, plantains and tomatoes made up the fabulous offerings at the fair. A line of naive customers waited their turn among dirty puddles, squalid stray dogs, and more law enforcement officials.

A friend and I, due to the absurd diversion of the only route, were returning in the afternoon, walking from the recently-restored iron bridge, searching for the P3 stop so that we could ride the bus back to our neighborhood. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the morning’s detour was still in effect. We were forced to continue on foot until we reached our respective homes in Nuevo Vedado.***

Upon nearing the trucks that bore the agricultural products on offer, I overheard the following comment: “Such a fuss over a tomato that’s more expensive than at the farmer’s market!”

Translator’s Notes:
*Literally, in this post, “A lack of bread, circus.”
**Playa is a municipality in the city of Havana.
***Nuevo Vedado is a neighborhood in the Plaza de la Revolucion municipality of Havana.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others.

31 December 2014