HAVANA TIMES – I have visited the city of Regla, across the bay from Old Havana, on many different occasions. It’s a municipality with various places that hold its history; Lenin Hill figures among these: the first place where tribute was paid to Vladimir Ilich Lenin in Latin America.
The Mayor of Regla, Antonio Celestino Bosch, inaugurated it by planting an olive tree in 1924. Back then, it was called Loma del Fortin, before it was baptized for the second time. This tree was cut down during the Machado and Batista governments, but it was always replanted.
In 1984, sculptor Thelvia Marin created the set of sculptures that include Lenin’s face built into the rock. She was a talented artist, who I had the pleasure to meet one day by chance and interview for Havana Times.
This work is currently falling into ruin, especially the group of sculptures that are found on top of this hill. Some of the statues have broken arms and you can see the wire rods that they were made out of. There is a repugnant stench as it seems that people sacrifice animals here and then they decompose in the sun and nobody takes charge of cleaning the area.
A day-care center was also set up here, named after the Communist. A friend who lives in this municipality tells me that she had a nephew enrolled at this center, in spite of living quite a ways away from her home and being quite high up, however, there were iron stairs that led up to it back then and it was quite practical.
Now out of use, it hasn’t escaped becoming a miserable place, a public bathroom covered in urine and faeces everywhere. It has also been chosen as a popular haunt for sexual encounters, where people leave their trace behind afterwards on its walls with obscene messages and drawings.
One of the groundskeepers told me that she doesn’t let tourists get too close up there: she is ashamed for them to see the disaster and the pig-sty it has become. She said that a Cuban flag and LED lights which were used to light it up in the night were stolen, as it is open around the clock.
She complained about there being very limited staff, because robbers keep a watch on them so they can commit their misdeeds. All of the groundskeepers are responsible for what happens and normally when something is stolen, the measure is that the value of the stolen item is discounted from their wages.
Despite the above, Lenin Hill is an enjoyable place to visit, with five flights of stairs for public access, a museum, an impressive view-point, considered to be one of the highest points in Regla. From up there, you can make out buildings such as the Institute of Meteorology, the Nico Lopez refinery, the Naval Hospital, the Academy of Sciences, the Habana Libre Hotel and Havana’s beautiful and polluted Bay.
I have faith that action will be taken one day and that the corresponding institutions do something to restore the monument, to clean and transform the old day-care center into a positive community space. Both of these buildings deserve our respect.
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