Years ago, when I used to walk through the streets of Old Havana, I would always proceed cautiously and looking up. It wasn’t because I liked to contemplate the sky or the colonial architecture, but for fear that at any moment some old balcony would come crashing down on me.
It was incredible to view the aged and semi-collapsed city. It was as if it had suffered the devastation of war.
The city’s historical center is currently undergoing a reconstruction effort led by City Historian Eusebio Leal. Walking through the streets of Old Havana no longer seems dangerous, at least not from above.
Today, like in La fabula de los tres hermanos (a famous song by trova musician Silvio Rodriguez) I make my way looking downward at the ground. It’s not because I have my gaze focused on the present, as metaphorically referred to in the song, but because of the number streams of leaking water and sewage gushing into the streets.
To tell the truth, this problem is not experienced only in the streets of the historic district. I would venture to say that all municipalities in Havana are flooded with overflowing sewers that no one attends to or with water leaks inadvertently flowing for blocks on end.
Paradoxically, this situation exists despite the number of public service announcements urging people to conserve this valuable resource. The problem is compounded by the deplorable situation of the principal sources of supply resulting by major droughts in the capital.
It means nothing for us to make efforts to save water if the entities in charge of solving this problem of squandering do nothing.
Not much is solved by Eusebio Leal adding a little rouge to Havana if tourists are forced to roll up their pant legs to walk through our streets. The problem is like trying to hide a pile of garbage behind the door when a visitor comes by.
What is required are deeper efforts to solve this urban problem, which can even affect public health since many of these leaks create veritable breeding grounds for mosquitos and a broth for cultivating disease.
I only hope that the institutions responsible for solving this problem are conscious of the need to urgently address this pressing problem.