Never Too Late If the Job’s Done Right

Irina Echarry

First it was a damp spot, later continuous dripping, and then a stream of rain water running down the kitchen wall. In a short time it had expanded to the front room and the balcony. Since there were cracks in the parapet (the low protective wall around the roof), the water that entered had found a way to drain out.

Our initial steps with UMIV (the Municipal Housing Rehabilitation Department) led nowhere. We sent letters to the municipal office of the Communist Party, the housing authority, the city council and other bodies. The delegates for our district had ignored doing anything about the issue for years, even though it was pointed out as a concern of the public at every neighborhood meeting.

One of those letters was published in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, which added that we were waiting for responses from the appropriate agencies. But those responses never came.

At the insistence of a neighbor who worked for the housing authority back then, we were included in the Rehab Plan, and after enduring years of waterlogged walls, a crew finally showed up at the building.

The work was as arduous as it was and novel, because instead of roles of tar paper or molten asphalt, they were going to install some waterproof coverings. The racket made by the workers lasted only a short time because they soon ran out of materials and left without permanently attaching the waterproof sheets.

After that, whenever there was a strong gust, from a distance one could see the sheets fluttering in the wind as if the building were a clipper ship on the high seas. We therefore found ourselves in worse shape than we had been. With the roof now stripped completely bare, water could find many more places to drain. My apartment, on the top floor (in the corner) began to look more like a waterfall every time it rained.

But the worse thing was that they hadn’t fixed the parapet and the crack that was already there was getting wider. Within a few years we’d end up being able to see the sky through it.

We remained in the situation for an eternity, writing more letters and begging the housing authority to again include us in the Rehab Plan (they had scratched us off once the crew showed up).

Feliz, the new delegate of Popular Power (city council) is the sole one who has shown an interest in this problem that affects many buildings in Alamar. Thanks to his efforts we have another crew now working on the roof – after 15 years of leaking. They have now knocked down the parapet and have begun constructing a new one. At least they’re off to a good start, which shows that it’s never too late if the job is done right.