Celebrating New Buses in Alamar

Irina Echarry

feria-guaguas03HAVANA TIMES — It was Saturday evening and I was walking back home after getting off the packed P11 bus. On a street in front of my building, people had set up food stands and installed service counters – so I knew something was going to happen.

“Alamar residents, this is a fiesta for you,” announced the speaker on top of the bus terminal on Sunday morning. The voice went on to invite residents to come in and welcome the 30 buses that had just arrived.

The Alamar bus terminal is a strategic zone, meaning that just any person can’t come inside. That’s why when the residents were invited to go in, they wanted to see with their own eyes the row of brand new buses.

According to the people who have lived here the longest, this was something that had never happened since the terminal was first opened.

feria-guaguas011Not even when the double-humped “camel” buses hit the streets or when they in turn were replaced by articulated buses had there been a celebration like this.

At the entrance, a woman with a bad attitude and a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach received the visitors. Her job was to sanitize the hands of every person who came inside the facility. She assumed her role in an aggressive manner, without taking into consideration that this was a new public health measure and many people didn’t have the slightest idea why she was there carrying it out.

Once inside, a few groups of children and teens were dancing around “in honor of the new vehicles,” but later when the group Rumba Cuba came out, almost everyone was on their feet.

Earlier that day, a street fair had started where they were selling everything from agricultural produce to snacks, shots of rum and cocktails, which uniformed waiters served at tables decorated with orchids.

feria-guaguas015Since the food and fruit was cheaper than what is usually sold at farmers markets, many people got in line and filled their bags. “We better take advantage of this,” said some people. “What’s with this miracle?” asked others.

To the beat of drums and the music, the program’s MC continuously shouted best wishes for Chavez and the hope that the “great president” would regain his health.

The man seemed to be talking about a relative or someone close to him. As for me, quite entertained, I kept wondering if this rumba was making it all the way to Caracas.

At times, the idea of the buses faded into the background and the figure of the “great president” became the focus of the party.

Although the overwhelming majority of the people enjoyed the rumba and rhythms, without thinking about anything else, some of us — disappointed for years with the transport situation in the neighborhood — were skeptical.

How could we not be? The speeches we heard over the sound system didn’t explain whether, in addition to the buses, if there would also be sufficient spare parts for them. They didn’t give us any idea of ??the useful life of these buses, or how often they would be going out on their routes, or if the drivers will quit loading and unloading passengers away from the established bus stops.

We all welcomed the new buses for the P3, P15 and P11 routes. Hopefully they’ll last a good while and the January 13 celebration will mark a turning point in the history of transportation in Alamar.

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