In Cuba: Against Life
August 8, 2016
HAVANA TIMES — They say that a picture is worth more than a thousand
words. It’s a well known fact that time, relentless and irreversible,
transforms every living thing and even what appears to be static. The
only place where faces and bodies, sensations and the backdrops of our
lives remain intact in a continuous stream is in our memory.
However, if we see a place associated with so many happy memories, run
down, broken, forgotten, it’s inevitable that we feel like something (or
someone) is mocking what our past is worth, the hard work and resources
that were needed to build it, and the joy that has been snatched away
from present and future generations.
In an article published on Cubanet, I saw some photos of Lenin Park and
the National Aquarium which reminded me of the Giant Swimming Pool in
Alamar, an option in the ‘90s that substituted going to the beach and
saved us the journey in packed buses and the trouble of having to go so
The same crushing damage that pain us, as if our own experiences were
being dragged down along with the rust, dirt and rubble, our most
treasured nostalgia being trampled on.
We can and it’s only natural that we should accept change, but only when
things are knocked down so they can be built again, improved, and thus
filling every corner of the past with progress.
In Cuba’s surreal reality, blame is shifted and those who are
responsible slip away. People responsible are only seen when it’s for
something successful. But, what chain of actions and decisions leads to
the abandonment of leisure facilities that were a part of so many
Why is Lenin Park and the National Aquarium in the state they’re in? Why
have we lost this Giant Swimming Pool, which was a source of fun for
children, young people and adults alike, and which apparently was the
first of seven that were going to be built along the coast?
Why is it that in Jose Marti Park, which is also situated in Alamar,
most of the playground equipment which was brought from Tarara (another
recreational space snatched from us Cubans) with great fanfare no longer
When I walk past the cinema in this “City of the Future”, which once
radiated in the ‘80s with its beautiful crystalline lobby, and which
surrended to the corrosion of Nature’s elements years ago, I can’t help
but remember a man I met, the founder of Alamar and the construction
manager of its most important facilities, who along with the “white
helmet” brigades, promoted by Fidel, believed that they were building a
better world for their children.
“Yesterday, I walked past the cinema and began to cry,” this man
confessed to me. I proposed to interview him and he accepted, but the
day we were meant to meet, he had to go to the hospital. I only found
out later that he had sold his house and had immigrated to the US.
In an informal conversation that I just happened to listen in on, I
learnt that the municipal government in East Havana, which was talking
with several Protestant churches, had suggested to the Christian mission
that they needed to steer young people towards constructive forms of
entertaintainment that would keep them away from harmful habits like
drugs. Their proposal was to build a skating rink which they already had
all the resources for. All they needed was the government’s stamp of
Although we know how long and cumbersome this bureaucratic process can
be, you might ask yourself what would impede the government from
authorizing the construction of something good, useful and necessary.
Something which many, many people can enjoy.
Surely there’s a broken link in this bureaucratic chain somewhere where
command and control dissolve?
If history is told narrating its conquests, it should also reveal its
defeats. The apathy of Cubans begins when we think about the extent of
all the damage that has been done, of all the instances of neglect and
exclusion, which are the inaudible voice of the place the public has for
This place which can be seen in the neighborhood Assemblies where
citizens no longer want to go because they feel like they’re being
mocked, swindled, because their never-ending proposals are only met with
ambiguous responses or solemn sentences.
When I look at just how many buildings have been handed over to be
demolished (not because of war or a natural catastrophe, but the result
of a lethal mix of disastrous government administration, bureaucratic
density and civil apathy), I understand that it’s here where the Cuban
people’s obsession with leaving, with getting out of this centralized
system begins. Where they can’t even decide what is going to happen with
potholes, the garbage, the lack of public street lighting and
recreational options. It’s a natural human need to breathe in the air of
evolution, not stale air. People want to be a part of life, of the
animate, not to be part of what is atrophied or paralyzed.
Source: In Cuba: Against Life – Havana Times.org –