Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García
Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his
opinion about the designation of "Wonder City" based on an Internet
survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, "New 7
Wonders," and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with
insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny
of Cuba since January 1959.
The old man lives in a quarter where the wastewater runs through the
cracked central corridor, a little more than half a kilometer from the
area of colonial Havana, which wears makeup for the photos of dazzled
The rainy season has become a calvary for the residents of Havana who
live in the low zones, where the housing is in poor shape, or in any of
the 80 unhealthy neighborhoods that proliferate in the capital.
In a hot, windowless room with a half-dozen plastic buckets and junk,
Luis Carlos tries to trap the drops of water that filter through the
"On days of pouring rain, I pray to the Lord that the room doesn't fall
down on me. I've already sealed the roof twice, but it continues to
leak," he says, and with the help of a nephew, he tries to patch a hole.
When the rain pours down in Havana, the people who live in dilapidated
housing or on streets that are close to the coast, become sailors,
bailing out water inside their homes or escaping to safe places in
On Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 in the evening, while Richard Weber, the
President of the New7Wonders Foundation was unveiling the Wonder City
plaque on the Esplanada de La Punta, a stone's throw from the Malecón,
Reinaldo Savón's family was loading its furniture and electrical
appliances into a horse-drawn cart, with water skirting the middle of
San Ramón, a neighborhood that suffers like no other from the rainy
periods, for lack of an adequate infrastructure of drainage.
"I don't know which wonder city those bastards awarded. I invite them to
come live in San Ramón on days like these. After they see how peoples'
houses are flooded and how they lose their things, they will change
their opinion. No one thinks about this part of Havana. It's been more
than 20 years since the Government promised us a solution, but
everything stays the same, only promises," Reinaldo says.
The Office of the City Historian, directed by Eusebio Leal, a regime
official, who managed to save various valuable buildings in Old Havana
from disaster, prepared a free cultural program. From June 7-11, you
could enjoy, among other things, performances of the Teatro Lírico, the
Ballet Folklórico, the Tropicana Cabaret, the Ballet Lizt Alfonso, a
parade of singers, musicians and dancers on the Paseo del Prado, and a
concert by the Orquesta Aragón on the corner of Prado and Neptuno.
But Havanans like Lourdes Pérez, a resident of a marginal neighborhood
adjacent to the José Antonio Echevarría Technological University, in the
Marianao municipality, isn't much for parties.
Four years ago, Lourdes came to the capital from Santiago de Cuba with
her three children and her husband in search of better luck. He sells
corn tamales and clothing from Ecuador, and she takes care of elderly
Legally, Lourdes and her family are clandestine in Havana. They don't
have a ration book, and their hut, with a dirt floor and an aluminum
roof, doesn't have a bathroom or drinking water. They live poorly, eat
little and drink cheap alcohol.
"We don't have anything more. When we get a few pesos, they go for food
and rum. The money isn't enough to build a decent house. We barely
survive with what we earn," says Lourdes' husband, who spends time
gathering raw materials in the dump on Calle 100, west of the city.
Since December 17, 2014, after the truce with the United States, the old
Cold-War enemy, Cuba, and especially Havana, has received a stream of
famous visitors, investment projects, a runway of Chanel fashions,
Hollywood filmings and even a mega-concert by the Rolling Stones.
Press passes are everywhere, but the benefits are invisible to the
average citizen. The shortages sting like a whip; the infrastructure of
the city is Fourth World; garbage is piling up in the neighborhoods;
thousands of buildings threaten to collapse; public transport is
chaotic, and finding something to eat continues to be the main
preoccupation, not only for people in Havana but for all Cubans.
Orestes Ruiz, an engineer, can't believe that Havana is a wonder city.
"Too many shortages. Anyone who has traveled abroad will see that even
the cities of Third World nations, to which they should compare us, have
more hygiene, better Internet connection and more efficient public
Nadine López, a university student, considers that it has to do with the
excess of news in the international media, or it's an operation of
marketing or simply a joke in poor taste.
"You have to have a lot of imagination to reward Havana as a wonder
city. I don't know why there's so much celebration. For those of us who
live here it's more of an offense than a recompense," she says, while
the rain dies down in a doorway on the Calzada Diez de Octubre.
Although the leaders promise a "prosperous and sustainable socialism,"
and the media focus continues extolling Havana, a large segment of those
who live in José Martí's small fatherland wait for more palpable changes
that will improve the quality of their lives.
For now, all that remains is soft music in the background. And press
Hispanopost, June 9, 2016
Source: Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -