By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES — Watching the sea is a way to alleviate stress. I usually do this because I have the sea nearby, I live in Miramar in the neighborhood called La Puntilla, an idyllic place in the early ‘90s, when you could swim in its pristine waters, where solitude and tranquility prevailed, and there wasn’t a large flow of visitors.
A coastal area, covered in sharp stones, where wearing a pair of sneakers is the safest way to get to and go into the sea. You also have to protect yourself from the sea urchins that flourish on the rocks.
Years ago, when I used to come home from work, I would take a dip in the sea for a few hours, and I’d wait for the sun to set. It was all wonderful, until work was begun to build the La Puntilla shopping center, after 1994. My apartment filled with dust, super high walls were built which took away my sea view, which I used to watch from my terrace; they dumped bricks, mortar, rebar on the coast and that oasis gradually became a dump for rubble.
At the same time, the Sierra Maestra building was renovated, which at that time was a store with a cafe, to become the CIMEX corporation, full of offices and thousands of workers. The parking lot that surrounded the building filled with cars, pollution came and took over the entire area.
This metamorphosis brought people from other neighborhoods, who came to swim in the sea, eat food, and leave their respective waste in the water and on the rocks. On weekends, and in the summer season, you can hear the racket of children, arguments and shouts.
Tunnels which were built yesteryear, in order to protect the city from an invasion, are now filled with garbage and sewage.
Afrocuban religious followers have chosen this same spot in front of the sea to carry out their rituals: to bathe themselves, sacrifice animals, throw fruit, which doesn’t do anything else but pollute the environment further. Luckily, turkey vultures are responsible for eating the pigeons and chickens that the waves wash up onto the shore again. I found a whole ram one day.
Sometimes, a person masturbating lurks around, jerking off, if they have time, if nobody discovers them.
There isn’t a police force monitoring the area, patrol cars only go around in circles, nobody gets out to have a look about.
It’s become fashionable now among girls turning 15, to do their photoshoot on the beach, posing in bikinis, in their dresses and heels, trying not to fall down on the sharp rocks, while the photographer tries to make the most out of the light. Leaving a contrasting image, something between glamour and neglect.
Alternative practices to clean up, fix the landscape, make cement paths, put up parasols, like they did at the 16th Street beach, are still non-existent. Nobody cares about building an area where people can enjoy the sea and the sun.
In front of the beach, there is an unused space, where rustly old garbage bins and waste belonging to the shopping center are kept. They could build a library there, or a cinema.
No People’s Power official is concerned about creating projects like these. Street lighting in the park on Zero street, next to the 5th Avenue Tunnel, has yet to be resolved, as it’s left pitch black at nighttime.
The Riomar building is another symbol of decadence: a luxury building in the past, with its wonderful services for its resident which has been falling to pieces for decades now. Its residents tell us that after many years of difficulties, they’re going to get kicked out, as a group of foreigners want to buy it, demolish it and build a new building in its place. They’ll offer other apartments to its residents, but it won’t be easy, because many won’t want to move to outlying municipalities.
Will Riomar end up falling to the ground with its residents inside?
Meanwhile, the beach continues to fill its garbage dump, bad odors increase, rats run around in plain daylight and cats chase after them.