HAVANA TIMES – We still had hope in May 2018 when the first part collapsed, we thought the building would hold out for a long time, as if a hundred years were nothing, but other parts collapsed twice again in October, which made us see that it was a ticking timebomb.
Seeing the physical, moral, and governmental precipice unfolded before us like a surrealist painting evoking chaos. Back then, we had no response from the government, and I can still remember up until today, the face of Mr. Alexis – who is now the Mayor of Havana – unemotional, cold, expressionless…” These are the words of Jorge, who owns a collapsed a home in the San Isidro neighborhood, in Old Havana.
“The pandemic came and with it, a deadly virus settled in our minds: doubts, with a high level of insecurity. It’s as if a battle had been declared. We couldn’t be out on the streets, family members and neighbors couldn’t take us in because of the loud phrase everywhere of: “Stay at home”, my ears hurt hearing it and thinking: what house are we going to stay in? The city’s doors began to close and with it, our chances of having a safe roof over our heads.
I looked at the building that looked like a vertical grave, ready to mummify us in its rubble. We decided to leave the house for good in August 2020, until we could find a solution. Four rental homes in a year is a lot. In the beginning, we paid 60 CUC or 1500 Cuban pesos, but when the currency reform was introduced in January 2021, lots of renters had changed the value into the trending currency (USD) and the price went up quite steeply from 60 CUC to 60 USD, which in national currency meant paying 1500 to up to 4500 pesos today. Sometimes, you must pick between being safe or eating and eating can wait two days or so.
Most Cubans have to make do with a wage that is just about enough to buy food and some hygiene items, so repairing a hundred-year-old building has become a shattered dream for many, who are living in similar conditions.
After three years, my daughter has changed school four times and we have no idea where she’ll start secondary school, or how we’ll manage to get by. We’re in Fate’s hands, we can’t even go back to the ruin at 905 Damas Street and wait for luck or misfortune, that’s not an option anymore, walking up the rotten staircase that has seen many downpours and is home to mold can be fatal.
In the meantime, we’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg, as part of one more structure in a dystopian city – keeping silent with its eyes lowered at one of the potholes in the road.