Will Havana Survive?

Ernesto Carralero Burgos

Habana-1HAVANA TIMES — The anniversary of the establishment of the settlement of San Cristobal de La Habana was celebrated a few days ago. I believe that, like birthdays and other commemorative events that celebrate the passage of time, such anniversaries are a way of expressing gratitude for still being alive.

As one walks around the Cuban capital, one notices that the city is in a rather deplorable state. With the exceptions of those areas (mostly destined to tourism) that are favored by the work of the Office of the Havana City Historian, the rest of the city suffers from decades of general neglect.

From afar, it resembles a city torn apart by a war or devastated by one of nature’s destructive forces.

Habana-3The most regrettable thing is that there are people living in those ruined buildings – many because of the well-known housing shortage and others simply because they were born and raised in neighborhoods they don’t want to leave.

Lacking their own resources and State aid, these people find it impossible to repair the homes they live in. Though some manage to save up some money to overcome very basic problems, the truth is that it is impossible to take on such repairs on their measly salaries.

I have often heard people say things like: “I pray to god a hurricane never hits Havana.” The fact this has never happened is a kind of blessing, I believe.

Habana-2All the while, money is spent to repair city landmarks such as the Capitolio building. Despite the fact this is a historical monument, I believe I agree with Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei’s gesture of breaking Neolithic ceramics as part of a performance. When hundreds of lives are destroyed every instant, nothing is sacred.

Why should we prioritize the Capitolio over the rest of the city?

Apparently, when the repairs are done, the National People’s Power Assembly (Parliament) will be relocated to the facilities there. We can only hope that, if Havana manages to survive till then, our elected deputies, then much closer to the reality of the city, will be moved by what they see around them and decide to do something for a city that was among Latin America’s most beautiful for a very long time.

14 thoughts on “Will Havana Survive?

  • If Castro is not to blame then who is? Who is to blame from the dilapidated state of Havana? Who is responsible for the disastrous state of Cuban agriculture? Why does Cuba have such diffculty raising cattle (There are less head of cattle today than in 1959)

  • What Fidel inherited was a prosperous, dynamic and corrupt Cuba, desperately demanding democracy and freedom from the dictator Batista.

    After 55 years, Cuba is an impoverished, moribund, and corrupt island, with no democracy, no freedom, and a dictator named Castro.

  • Prague is lovely, but it was starting to show some decay before the Communists were given the boot. The Czech government spent money on maintaining the old town of their capital city. Fidel ignored Havana. Budapest is of course, two cities. The old city Buda is nice, while the industrial Pest is a depressing Stalinist suburb.

    The fact is, infrastructure throughout Cuba, but especially in Havana, has been neglected. Electrical, water and sewage systems are near collapse. 50% of all fresh water pumped in Havana fails to arrive at the taps and is lost in leaks. Buildings are collapsing weekly, and very few ever get repaired.

    The lack of any mortgage market, and unclear property title laws, both conditions which were direct consequences of the policies and actions of the Cuban Revolution, are responsible for the decay of so many Cuban buildings. The inefficient and corrupt centrally planned socialist economic system ensure that very little building materials needed to repair building actually get to those who need them.

    The US embargo has nothing to do with it. Cuba produces their own cement, limestone and asphalt. The could have maintain everything, but have instead let the accumulated wealth of the nation wither and die.

  • Anyone with absolute control of a nation for 56 years is totally responsible for its conditon. This is not “right wing” thinking so much as it is just common sense. In the American Revolution Thomas Paine wrote a rationale for breaking away of America’s past from British rule. It was called “Common Sense”. The same logic applies at this moment in history for Cuba. A nation cannot be controlled from the graves of the past. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed “The earth belongs to the living.” This also is applicable for Cuba today. Enough already with “the revolution”, Che and all of that crap. Look at the crumblling cities, the people fleeing by the thousands to other lands. It is time for change now.

  • Well I’m pleased to say that I had no part in electing any US Government, purely on the basis that thankfully I am not a US citizen.
    What I do get sick and tired of is the constant Castro bashing from frequent commenters on this site who find it convenient to blame Fidel and Raul Castro for all that is wrong throughout Cuba.
    How coincidental that selective short term and long term memory impairment kicks in when theses individuals dismiss what Fidel Castro ‘inherited’ post revolution and post Batista.
    Yes there is a massive problem not just in Havana but throughout Cuba with its infrastructure but during my frequent and regular visits over the past 12 years, there has been noticeable improvements made and there is very considerable more work to be undertaken..

  • So Fidel prioritized the countryside?
    Now we know why agricultural production in Cuba has gone down, Down, DOWN until the country has to import 80% of food requirements.
    Dan, this is Socialism in practice!
    For those of us who have experienced Socialist governments it is no surprise!
    The philosophy of Socialist leaders is: “Everybody equal except me, and I’m in charge.” It is all about control!
    Cuba is Socialismo in practice. Get out into Cuba proper away from the resorts and Havana. The whole country is crumbling – even the autopista.!
    Describing the decay as a consequence of socialism is factual – it has been the form of government for 55 years! How can one blame anyone else?

  • Why Oh Why do US citizens use this site as a method of criticizing their own elected governments. It is BORING!!!!
    O.K. if the USA is a mess it is US citizens who are responsible, but most of us don’t read the Havana Times site in order to read the moans and groans of US citizens about the USA. If you have problems, sort them out at home!
    Do you want to know what the problems are in the European countries, in the antipodes, in Canada discussed here?
    It is obvious that the US Constitution requires changes – but that is for you folks to achieve. Yes, the rest of us in the free world think that your gun laws are stupid in the extreme. Yes, the rest of us realise that you have an appalling history of racism which hasn’t apparently diminished. Yes, the deadlock between the Elephant and the Donkey has castrated decision making. So having agreed with you folks about the problems of the USA, can we return to consideration of Cuba? PLEASE!

  • Of course it will. It’s laughable to read the smug comments of the dwellers languishing in their mock ivory towers within the US of A whose slum population beggars belief. But then they have an uncanny knack of turning a blind eye to the cess pits within their homeland.
    How convenient to place the blame at the door of Socialism and the Castro’s.
    How long did it take George Dubya take to visit the ravaged areas of the result of hurricane Katrina.
    Out of sight, out of mind.

  • I just finished reading ” A History of Havana” by Dick Cluster and another author from Cuba, both who live there. It is an entirely apolitical and fascinating book. It also belies much of what the rightwingers say are entirely the fault of the Revolution. Example, observant visitors to pre- 1959 Havana, from Graham Greene back to the English occupiers have commented on the city’s decayed appearance. Not to say that Fidel’s prioritization of the countryside, the blockade, ect. didn’t contribute to its current state. Anyway, it certainly is convenient to simply point to it as a failure of Socialism. Nor does it explain why Prague and Budapest, were so well preserved, since they were Socialist well before Cuba.

  • Havana’s landscape of crumbling buildings is a monument to the failure of socialism. It’s heartbreaking to see how this once beautiful city is dying. There is an excellent documentary on Havana’s ruins,

    Habana – Arte Nuevo de Hacer Ruinas
    Havana – The New Art of Making Ruins


  • When the Castros die, their monument will be the decimated city of Havana, and you can be assured old die hard supporters will still scream the glory of the “revolution” from under the ruins of the city until they die too. Thankfully however, this new century will usher in a new generation seared by communisim eager to reject its immmediate past and embrace a new future for Cuba.Take heart. Everything passes.

  • Can you imagine the cost of rebuilding Havana to its former glory? There is an estimated deficit of 1 million homes in Cuba. Of those homes still standing as many as half of them are in poor condition or worse. The Castros have literally destroyed Cuba in so many ways that it is depressing to imagine the challenges future generations face. ……. The good news is that change is coming, sooner rather than later.

  • Fifty five years of incompentant Socialismo under the Castro family regime, have brought Havana – with the exception of the sites funded by foreign money through UNESCO to the condition described by Ernesto Burgos. Put bluntly and factually, Havana is crumbling. The tourist buses avoid the areas of the city where most of the population lives preferring the Malecon and 5th Avenue. The Capitolio is important for the Castro family regime and when restored will like the Brazilian funded Mariela be an important destination for visiting politicians. The purpose is to give the impression of having a democratic form of government cloaking the reality of the communist dictatorship. One can imagine a fawning Diaz-Canel meeting foreign dignatories on the steps of the restored Capitolio with outstretched hand for the photo-op. Watch!

  • Havana WILL survive

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