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?
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.
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