Irina Echarry

The central section of this building in Havana collapsed last Monday.

HAVANA TIMES — The news has been going around since last Monday morning when the central part of a building located on Carmen, between Cortina and Figueroa streets, in Havana’s neighborhood of La Vibora, collapsed.

The building was once a school and, well before that, a convent. It had been empty for twenty or so years. More precisely, it had been “almost” empty: some eleven families were still living there.

I had paid this building a visit in 2011. Then, I had taken a number of photos of the interior for an article by Yusimi Rodriguez, published in Havana Times. On that occasion, the cracks on the walls, the absence of roofs in some rooms, the holes on the floor and the lack of had made a deep impression on us.

Looking at the news published by Cuban newspapers, I see the press has focused entirely on the work carried out by the rescue and salvage team. Their effort, which helped locate the body of Isabel Maria Fernandez, is indeed worthy of praise. But the press is treating this woman as the sole victim of the incident, as though the other tenants, including those who lived next to the collapsed structure, hadn’t suffered emotionally.

Isabel was the only person who died, trapped by the rubble. What will become of the other tenants?

Here, in the middle of the ruins before the collapse, 11 families were living.

I can’t help but recall that, when I visited the building, I saw children playing outside, young people who spoke to us about the future, about their hopes and struggle for decorous housing. Most of them had been authorized to live in the building by State institutions.

The apartments in the building belonged to State companies. The tenants had been deceived into thinking that the building would be refurbished – they had even volunteered to help in the construction work – or that, failing that, they would be relocated to locales in habitable conditions. They were never told they would be placed in a shelter, which is what’s going to happen now, most likely.

I also can’t help recall that there are thousands of buildings as ramshackle as this one in Havana. Building the number of residences needed to overcome Cuba’s housing problem in the short or middle term  – be it through State efforts or individual initiative – is next to impossible and, unfortunately, we will continue to read news of this nature for quite some time.

Here are some of the photos of the building I took during my visit.

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Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

7 thoughts on “Building Collapses in La Vibora, Havana

  • There is nothing that Cuba lacks due to the embargo that could not be purchased from other trading partners like China, Brazil, and Venezuela. Falling buildings are a result of poor maintenance. Maintenance is a function of planning and materials. Socialism is famous for poor planning and the lack of materials is due to a lack of hard currency to purchase imported goods or low productivity to manufacture the materials in-country. Buildings collapsing is not a result of the US embargo.

  • I can’t help but think what Havana would be if there were no US embargo. The socialist Cuba could survive and provide for its people if the US had not cut off economic relations and made it impossible.

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