Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban building heritage has suffered, like all structures, the effects of the economic crisis resulting from the disappearance of the socialist camp (1991), with which Cuba maintained more than 80 percent of its trade. On top of that was the worsening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States more than half a century ago, that tried to take advantage of the crisis and finish off the Cuban Revolution.
At present, although the blockade is maintained, Cuba advances with this heavy burden and does its best to recover the buildings damaged by time, especially those dedicated to housing, with the delivery of subsidies to low-income people so they can repair their dwellings. Bank loans with low interest are available to those who are able to pay those expenses.
On the other hand, although the difficulties pointed out slow down the process, they are restoring like new buildings that have a heritage value.
It would be very extensive to enumerate in detail the restoration work in all the provinces, with emphasis on the cities that have been declared cultural heritage. In Havana alone, hundreds of such works have been recovered, among which stand out the Marti Theater, the Gran Teatro de La Habana, the National Capitol building and others in an advanced reconstruction process in recent years.
I want to stop, however, in a large group that is part of the history of the country. I am referring to the railroad stations, which emerged as the means of transportation was constructed, since Cuba was the first country in Latin America to have it and the seventh in the world, when in 1837 construction began on its first section between Havana and Bejucal.
Since that time, many wooden and tile stations have been made all over the country, which were true architectural jewels, many of which have remained to this day and are among the buildings considered the country’s constructive heritage.
However, some cement stations, but with the characteristics of the wooden ones, are also considered heritage of the country and are being renovated. Among them the central station of Havana and the one in Santa Clara, capital of the province of Villa Clara, that already was finished and began to provide services in days past.
It was precisely this last one that I visited on January 31, just three days after its re-inauguration, after major repairs that restored its functionality and the brilliance of its inauguration in 1925, when it was rebuilt of masonry and tiles, after a fire destroyed the station of wood that dated to 1840.
The Santa Clara station is the third largest in the country and is named after Marta Abréu, a wealthy woman who put all her wealth in the service of the independence of the country and built works of social benefit such as La Caridad Theater, among others.
Although its original eclectic architecture and its heritage values ??were respected, the building received improvements such as the opening of a cafeteria, a room dedicated to the crews of the trains, facilities for people with disabilities and 200 metal seats in the waiting rooms.
According to Yunior Alfonso, director of Railways in Villa Clara, the cost of repairing that terminal was more than two million pesos (approx. $100,000 USD). Meanwhile work continues on the restoration of the Ranchuelo and Remedios stations, which will be completed in the first quarter of this year.