HAVANA TIMES, Feb 1 — I had to pack up all my stuff once again, with this making it the third apartment I’ve lived in since I finished college.
In just one year and five months I’ve bounced through three municipalities here in Havana: living in Nuevo Vedado, Alamar and now Cerro. Rental periods last only a short time, no more than six months.
Thinking back, in the Nuevo Vedado apartment it rained more inside than outside, though out of the four windows, two were sealed shut. Life was also inconvenienced by the faucet in the kitchen sink being the only one that worked.
In Alamar I was depressed by the architectural monotony of block after block of identical Soviet-style apartment buildings. To make things worse, the P 11 bus meant a mandatory two-hour wait-ride for me to get to my job on the other side of town.
Nonetheless, now I’ve made it to Cerro and I feel different.
My apartment has the view of lots of rooftops, a giant smokestack and a tree full of unripe mangoes.
Although I have no idea how or when I’ll end this vagabond existence, I can be sure I’ll never inherit a place of my own or be able to save enough money to buy one in the distant future here on this island.
Nonetheless I’m calm… safe and taking it easy.
I’ve started worrying less about violence on Calzada (one of the main arteries in the capital city) or concerning myself with the garbage that doesn’t fit in the dumpster.
Now I think less about the apartment that I managed to get and I’ve begun to obsess about others down the line.
Possibly this is because at around 10 o’clock one night, a couple weeks ago, I was taking the Route 20 bus a few blocks from Infanta and Salud streets just after an occupied building collapsed.
Now I focus on the load-bearing columns and walls of the old houses in Cerro. I even try to see if they’ll hold out until the owner can apply for a loan or get a grant.
I wonder if the add on barbacoa* being built one of the neighbors — without much knowledge of engineering — will hold the weight of his family.
Though the government has just recently begun selling construction materials in domestic currency, so far there’s not enough available to meet the demand. They say more will be coming less intermittently.
This also makes me speculate as to whether there will be enough bricklayers, plumbers and electricians? Currently, they are just as scarce as necessary.
Havana, much of it, has become a collection of braced roofs and facades supported by metal bars and debris.
For some reason, the only new construction that has been undertaken in recent times, with government resources are those that will be owned by members of the military or the Ministry of the Interior (Internal Security).
We’re entering the epoch of your-on-your-own and the elimination of subsidies.
But the truth is that it’s easier to strive in upscale Miramar than depressed Centro Habana.
Now I’m knocking lightly on wood with the hope that the city doesn’t keep turning into dust and no more collapsing floors and walls take any more lives.
(*)Barbacoas: “literally meaning grill or barbeque, refer to the platforms built in the high vertical spaces of houses, subdividing and rearranged indoor spaces in order to provide housing for a large number of the Cuban population.”