Hurricane Isidoro's Victims Are Still Waiting / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez
14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 19 July 2016 — "I pledge
that very soon you will have your homes," Carlos Lage Davila, vice
president of the Councils of State and Ministers, said in 2002 to those
who had lost everything and still today have not received what he promised.
Alexander Sanchez Villafranca, 33, was one of those affected by
Hurricane Isidoro. "If I had listened to my mom and had cut down the
mango tree, I would not be in this shelter. I never thought that the
wind could pull it up by the roots," he says. His home, at kilometer 1
in Santa Damiana, was reduced to rubble under the weight of the tree. He
is among the 16 families living in shelters in Portilla in Rio Seco, in
San Juan y Martinez municipality, as a result of Hurricanes Lili and
The place, 19 kilometers from Pinar del Rio, had been a military unit of
the Youth Labor Army (WCY), then in 1994 became a Battalion Task Force
that housed those who came to support tobacco workers, and in 1995 it
became a warehouse for oilcloth.
In 2002, after the hurricanes, they used it to receive the victims from
Santa Damiana, Forteza and Rio Seco, who had no means to rebuild their
own homes. Within a month of being there, they received a visit from
Carlos Lage Davila, accompanied by former first secretary of the Party
in the province, Maria del Carmen Concepcion, and other government and
At first, the mass organizations delivered lunch and dinner to
residents, who were seen by a family doctor daily. Then-delegate Sergio
Carrelegua visited them frequently and at meetings urged them to be
patient and assured them that the promises would be fulfilled. "A few
months later the attentions and promises disappeared," recalls Sanchez,
now married with a daughter of six who has known no other home. "Over
time the roofs began to deteriorate and the solution from the delegate
was to remove the roofs over the bathrooms and use them to replace the
broken tiles over the bedrooms, so the toilets have no roof."
The situation gets worse in the spring because of the rains, and for the
elderly, whose health is delicate, dampness is a greater risk. "In the
rainy season you have to do everything (even the physiological needs) in
your bedroom," says an old woman to illustrate the "hell" she is living in.
"I don't know how many times I've gone to the municipal government to
demand that they help us, but they don't do anything," says Arelys
Rodriguez, Sanchez's wife, while showing off the poor hygienic-sanitary
conditions of the outdoor bathrooms. "I have to carry water from the
neighbors' house, because the raised tanks are uncovered and are filled
with decomposing frogs, bats and even pigeons. I'd die before I drank
that water," she says with disgust.
Sanchez talks about his effort in agriculture, the work he does as a
laborer, hoping that a relative living in the United States will help
get her out of the hostel and he can buy a house. Meanwhile, her little
daughter Thalia flits around her. That little girl, with her innate
curiosity and boundless naiveté, manages to help Sanchez forget for a
moment the neglect and misery that surrounds her.
Source: Hurricane Isidoro's Victims Are Still Waiting / 14ymedio,
Ricardo Fernandez – Translating Cuba -