Kerry and the Pope Make Painting Havana Necessary / Hablemos Press,
Mario Echavarría Driggs
Posted on August 20, 2015
Hablemos Press, Mario Echavarría Driggs, Havana, 17 August 2015 — "A
painted old lady; they're painting her up so that Kerry and Pope can see
how pretty Havana is," were the comments from Luciano, a newspaper
vendor in Havana who was marketing his merchandise on the corner of
Reina and Escobar, in the Centro Habana borough.
For some weeks now, various brigades associated with the state-run
construction companies ECAL, SECONS and others that fall under the
National Assembly of People's Power, have placed scaffolds along Simón
Bolívar Avenue, which is popularly known by its pre-Revolution name,
Calle Reina (Queen Street).
These platforms occupy the sidewalks and part of the street, and provide
little or no protection to traffic and pedestrians. From high above, the
workmen are painting—their paint and tools in hand—poised above a flimsy
"We make our wages according to the total assessed value of the
building. I make about 600 Cuban pesos per month," says a young
stonemason while applying a fine cement mix to the Campanario Street wall.
On this crusade against decay, they have placed scaffolds at the
entrance to Sacred Heart Church, as well as a completely renovated
façade between Escobar and Campanario streets, which covers the ruins of
what once was a building.
The workmen are only going with the flow of that attitude that is so
generalized on the Island, that of "making do," despite the potentially
dangerous and contingent nature of the scaffolds.
These structures are no less threatening to passersby. The same goes for
the garbage containers that they use to block off the work areas. We are
talking about a very busy street, home to many schools, eateries and
It is common to find a workman interrupt his usual tasks to warn of the
danger: "A rock or paint can could fall from up there—even tools—or, God
forbid, a man!"
Still and all, the laborers make the effort to earn their few pesos from
ECAL—which, although not much, help them to "make do"—while they fix up
run-down Havana for the eyes of Kerry and Pope Francis.
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
Source: Kerry and the Pope Make Painting Havana Necessary / Hablemos
Press, Mario Echavarría Driggs | Translating Cuba -