Cleaning Havana’s “Malecon” Sea Wall on 8/16

Jimmy Roque Martínez

From the last campaign.

HAVANA TIIMES – Havana’s ocean drive sea wall welcomes thousands of people every day, particularly during the summer months. Young people also bathe in this area of Cuba’s northern coast, even though it is technically illegal.

As many Cubans and foreigners gather along this coastal strip, especially the area between the US Interests Section and Old Havana’s Prado street, the water tends to be littered with garbage that are thrown onto the reef and sea (most intensely during Havana’s summer carnivals).

In response to this, the members of the Guardabosques environmental project, a group that is part of the Observatorio Critico network, and other friends have carried out clean-up campaigns in the area near Prado street. The first clean-up took place in 2010, the second in 2012 and we are planning another for tomorrow August 16, 2014.

During each of our two previous sanitation campaigns, we have pulled out more than ten sacks of garbage, bottles, paper, plastic bags, cans, broken glass, bits of driftwood and all manner of waste materials from the water.

People always give us a strange look – we look “suspicious” to them – but, when they approach us and we have a chance to talk, after we explain to them why we do what we do, some help us, others praise and congratulate us and others tell us we’re crazy and that what we do is pointless.

Generally speaking, we do manage to draw people’s attention to the need to avoid throwing garbage into the sea, of looking after beauty and life, keeping the environment clean.

In addition, we show people one needn’t sit around and wait for “tasks” to be handed down from above, that one can work independently and do what one considers to be necessary and just. We must acquire the habit of making our own decisions.

Some people will get the message and will likely stop and think before dirtying the city. Perhaps, they will educate their children in this connection, or become excited about the prospect of leading more independent lives.

Of course, there will be others who won’t make any effort to change their lifestyles and our work will not bring any changes to their lives.

As for us, we will continue to try and improve our surroundings and to have an impact on people’s mentalities. This year, the clean-up campaign will begin at 4 pm on August 16, at Havana’s ocean drive, at the end of Prado street. I hope to see many people out there.

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Havana’s “Malecon” Sea Wall on 8/16

  • The problem is not that the government doesn’t try to educate Cubans not to litter. The problem is that when the government does everything for the people, and to the people, and with the people, all without the will of the people, then the people will learn not to have any self responsibility. In fact, it can be very dangerous for a person to show any personal initiative in Cuba.

    As a result, people will drop their garbage anywhere. Somebody else will deal with it. It’s not my problem. It’s not worth my trouble to find a trash bin, which are few and far between and won’t be emptied on time anyway.

  • I agree that the sea along the Malecon is quite ugly being littered with people’s throwaways.

    I used to participate in such public clean ups in the US. Then I eventually realized that if no one in charge was going to make any effort to reduce such avoidable problems, that I was not going to spend my time cleaning them up.

    As much as I love the Cuban people and culture, I must say that I find Cuban’s habits of simply throwing trash in the street or into the sea rather than carrying it to the nearest basura, or the government’s unwillingness to try to educate them to be disappointing.

  • If the authorities put some rubbish bins along there people will use them. Many bins all down Obispo and not much litter.

  • The work of this group is commendable. By cleaning up the shoreline you demonstrate ecological responsibility and the basic self-respect of a healthy citizenry. Good on you!

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