Sancti Spiritus: A Cuban City Turns 500

Daisy Valera

Capana del 500 Aniversario.

HAVANA TIMES — One would think the city has been bombed out. Sancti Spiritus, Cuba’s City of the Holy Spirit, will turn five hundred in June of this year, and the heart of its old town has all but vanished.

At the beginning of March, the province of Sancti Spiritus made news after human remains and the foundations and floor of a convent built in 1716 were unearthed in the city center.

The archeological efforts surrounding this discovery helped hasten the restoration work in this important part of the city. The Serafin Sanchez park has been turned into a plot of land prowled by bulldozers and cranes.

Bells with a “500” inside them have been painted in many public buildings around town to celebrate the city’s 500 years of existence, but the residents of Sancti Spiritus regard the restoration and organizational work undertaken for the coming festivities with more skepticism than enthusiasm.

Their apprehension is not unjustified. The restoration of the Paseo de los Martires, the longest promenade in the city, ended up destroying about half of the trees that shaded the thoroughfare.

The repair of residential buildings, which consisted in the painting and replacement of wooden windows with new aluminum ones have given rise to leaks in many walls, and those “benefited” will have to pay for repairs out of their own pockets.

Paiting the street lamps.

The decision to relocate the Candonga (a market for self-employed workers) to a smaller space further from the city center has also not been to people’s liking.

Several million Cuban pesos have been invested to restore the city, in anticipation of its 500th anniversary. The opening of a number of new locales, the restoration of an old masonic lodge, and the installation of new lights for the tower of the town parish are still pending.

Unlike Havana, Sancti Spiritus does not have a trade school where masons, carpenters, blacksmiths and glaziers who specialize in restoration work can be trained. Only a few meters of sidewalk of the city’s new park have been built so far.

The People’s Power Committee, responsible for this work, does not seem all that willing to respond to the concerns and opinions of the city residents on these issues. It’s most notable effort has been publishing a survey in Escambray, its digital newspaper, in disregard of the nearly non-existent connectivity in the city.

This year, none of the works restored in the province of Sancti Spiritus have qualified to compete for Cuba’s National Heritage Awards.

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Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

One thought on “Sancti Spiritus: A Cuban City Turns 500

  • !What’s happened to the Parque Serafin Sanchez! During the mid-day heat, I spent many an hour relaxing on one of the iron seats benneath the sheltering trees, observing the passing parade of people and traffic. Now it is a wasteland! ?!Why did they have to bulldoze the entire park?! To restore those trees will take a generation; in the meantime, the only seats will be under a merciless sun.

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