HAVANA TIMES, March 24 — The Cuban Catholic Church should take advantage of the work being done to dress up those streets in Havana along which the Pope will travel by making a detour in the Holy Father’s the route.
Such a change in plan could serve to alleviate many of the architectural problems that afflict Havana residents.
The “Pope-Mobile” will carry Joseph Ratzinger from the airport to the ecclesiastical office in the Miramar neighborhood where he will spend a night. Because of this, the streets along that route were re-paved and the facing of buildings painted.
The Pope, with that blessed aura that’s associated with him, could have contributed to the real possibility of fixing up the street named “La Calzada de Jesus del Monte” if that thoroughfare had been selected as part of his planned route.
That avenue, for its beauty and splendor prior to 1959, inspired the poet Eliseo Diego in 1948 to write some of the most important twentieth century Spanish language books.
La Calzada de Jesus del Monte (these days referred to as October 10th Street) long ago lost any resemblance to the verse that Eliseo immortalized: “This is the place where it’s great to be.” Today it’s seedy. It’s a place where elderly Havanans pass by and recall its ostentation with nostalgia.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega has that immense capacity to get along well with everyone, his church, the government and dissents. Though he doesn’t always succeed, on this occasion it would have been good if he had appealed to the Cuban authorities to have the pope make the illogical detour, perhaps saying:
“Our Pope XVI has been seized by a psychological disorder — a legacy of those days when he belonged to the anti-aircraft services of the Nazi SS — which prevents him from traveling through open spaces. He can only journey through urban areas.”
Such justification would have opened the door to the repair of October 10th St., which — although cosmetic — is desperately required.
For more than fifty years it has been in the hands of a government that — used to “cleaning only where a mother-in-law would look” — has forgotten one of the most significant arteries of our national architecture.