Streets in Poor Neighborhoods Asphalted in Havana

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — After having asphalted several major Havana thoroughfares on the eve of the Pope’s visit, crews of government workers are now repairing side streets in poor neighborhoods of the capital.

It has filled me with joy to see how disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Marianao district are benefiting — albeit slowly — from this effort to ensure minimum comfort to their residents.

Last March, in a diary entry titled “Cuba Diverts Scant Resources for Pope,” I protested how materials that had been initially earmarked for repairs in certain socially disadvantaged neighborhoods had instead been applied to major streets – such as 31st, 41st, 100th Street and Paseo.

That certainly didn’t seem fair, since I knew those streets were already in good shape, at least by Cuban standards, which was especially unfair when these were compared to other nearby streets in appalling condition.

One of the lanes on 124th Street was paved over a month ago, and though the delay in completing the work made me think it would remain like that for a few years, the reality is that now they’ve started repairing the other side.

This has dramatically changed the look of that street from 51st Street on up, which for decades had looked terrible due to the huge potholes – a situation that had become even worse after the phone company dug up these streets to install phone lines.

I was fortunate to run into a crew of these workers and their machines as they were renovating one of these secondary streets.

While I took pictures they commented half-jokingly. “Are you going to send those photos to Miami?” one worker asked suspiciously as he leaned against a utility pole.

“Not exactly,” I replied, “but good things should be known everywhere – don’t you think?”

Not very convinced, he looked away without responding.

I realized that after so many decades of rivalry and insults from both sides, this has made a dent in people’s thinking. However, I think that them allowing me to take photos of the street and the machinery indicates that things have gradually changed with regard to people’s attitudes.

Lower income people in Marianao will now have better streets, and that’s good news. Not because they said it on the evening news, but because I just saw it today.



Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

2 thoughts on “Streets in Poor Neighborhoods Asphalted in Havana

  • Isbel:
    Nice that you are depiciting a more symapthetic view of the city here. As of late, most websites on Cuba have been just publishing the ugly side. So, that worker was mostly right for his suspicions.

  • Isbel,
    Do you happen to know if because of Cuba’s close relationship with Venezuela , Cuba has access to a low price on the asphalt that Venezuela has in great abundance? .
    I did a brief web search and found that Lake Guanaco (sp?) in Venezuela is the world’s biggest deposit of asphalt.
    I am making the assumption that this asphalt can be used for road construction as it is extracted without much processing and as Cuba can really use it , it would seem that some sort of deal can be arranged between the two countries which will enable Cuba to repair a great many roads. .

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