By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – I live in a small town in Pinar del Rio province, between palm trees and marabu bush weeds. It doesn’t have any remarkable stories, nor were any glorious battles fought here that deserve monuments in their honor. Nor have renowned children come from these lands to give it a bit of fame. So, without any tourist attractions and historic importance, there’s nowhere in this country that can “lift its head”, as we say around here.
In the almost forty years I’ve lived here, I can attest to the fact that nothing here prospers. It’s as if we were inside a bubble and Time has stopped so that progress moves backward.
The town has 964 inhabitants, a figure that I received from the GP’s office. While the district representative, who is the local government representative, told me that it’s gone up to 1000-and-something. By the way, he promised to give me the exact number one of these days, and I got tired of waiting for this day that never comes. This is something else that happens here, everything ends up being just a promise.
For example, the water shortage problem is something that has been dragging on for years. It was resolved, but only for a short while. Water has stopped reaching this area, since May. I have personally written several letters to the provincial Communist Party Secretary after local attempts failed. But I’m still waiting, for water and answers. I’m sure they are lost somewhere between paper in another file!
On August 27th, after Hurricane Ida passed through here, the bus stop lost its roof. Well, almost three months later and it continues to look like a plucked chicken. By some miracle, the tin roof is still there, it hasn’t changed owner, and it seems that the town’s inhabitants really are a noble people. So noble that right now we are standing under the sun and waiting for something to pick us up, which can take several hours.
In the town center, there is a two-story building that used to belong to the Fishing Ministry. It is currently empty and out of use. It’s a gloomy place, full of bats and pests.
The elders here tell us that back in the 1950s, it operated as an inn that became famous because of the quality of its services. Anyone who traveled along the Central Highway would make a compulsory stop at the “Nena Menendez Inn”. When the State took over, everything changed. It became a nest of rats, cockroaches, limestone walls and empty shelves. Although as long as it’s standing, people here held onto the hope of better times. Well, this place has been under renovation for almost two years already, and we’re waiting for it to finally be completed the year that it snows.
Roads here have been deteriorating over the years. They had such big potholes that cars had to take alternative routes to dodge them. But this was resolved. One day, a truck came with earth and covered up all the holes. Now, these roads have become alleyways, where the dust rises creating suffocating clouds.
Things out of a science-fiction book happen here in my town. From the most disheartening news, to these times when everything is unchanging, as if the clocks have stopped. When you live in a place like this, hopelessness seeps into every dawn. Nothing surprises you and the days pass by, always foretelling new chaos.