Sunday, August 22, 2010

Havana's Housing Stock Is Literally Falling Into The Street

Yoani Sanchez
Award-Winning Cuban Blogger
Posted: August 22, 2010 12:05 AM

Havana's Housing Stock Is Literally Falling Into The Street

The building numbered 216 let out a sharp crack seconds before the walls
separated and the roof collapsed. The walls fell at an hour in the early
morning when no one was on the sidewalk. The dust floated up for several
days and stuck to the clothes of the curious who came to see and to take
some bricks from the pile of beams, wood and tiles. The rooming house
next door didn't suffer too much damage and the neighbors took advantage
of the collapse because it left a wall free where they could open new
windows. A year later, where the two-story building had collapsed, the
trash of the whole neighborhood accumulated and passers-by urinated in
the recesses formed by the columns.

The residents went to the shelter known as Venus, which is a few blocks
from the central train station. They arrived there hoping theirs would
be a short stay among the partitions and sheets hung up to form walls.
They've spent more than 20 years, however, in the damp rooms full of
bunk beds. Their children have grown up there, fallen in love, and
procreated, while sharing the collective bathroom and the kitchen with
the walls blackened by soot.

At first they believed they had relocated to a better place, but the
hurricanes and deterioration have damaged the housing stock and every
year thousands of people are added the list of victims. Over time,
they've forgotten the sensation of opening the door to their own home,
taking off their clothes in a room without thinking about the dozens of
curious eyes watching, of taking a shower without someone pounding on
the door desperately demanding their turn. They have forgotten how to
live outside the shelter.

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