Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES — A little while ago and for no particular reason, I decided to take a walk through Alamar, the city on the east side of Havana where I have lived for 16 years. The walk, which I began in a very good mood, became a depressing and heartbreaking experience.
In addition to the overflowing garbage cans on nearly every corner, all of the grassy areas, especially around buildings, have become showcases for trash.
The old bicycle path, a long street which takes you directly to Bacuranao beach has always been a delightful path with dense, leafy plants on both sides. Now many people have built their houses there, the dense foliage which surrounded it has been cut down or covered with all kinds of garbage. Only the beginning and the end of the street, which are still uninhabited, remain clean.
The ravine which links Alamar’s vegetation with the Cojimar River, which can be seen from the bridge at the neighborhood entrance, is a privileged place because of the incredible views it has. However, it hasn’t escaped becoming a dump either, in spite of there not being any houses in its surrounding, bits of polystyrene foam and other waste have been thrown out here.
There’s no longer any shortcuts that are safe from garbage, and several open spaces with bushes and wild flowers have been transformed into farms with sloppy fences, many of these pieces of land don’t seem to be well-looked after by their owners.
Even Hanoi Park, a space which has huge and leafy trees, looks ugly and inhospitable ever since they cut down a load of branches so pay-for WIFI could be installed in the area.
The garbage issue has been talked about, debated and continues to be mentioned, but things are only getting worse. And it pains me to see that we Cubans have very little appreciation for our environment. Many people improvise entrances on the ground floors of buildings; it’s worth finding out just how much they spend to make their homes look impressive.
But, what good is it if the inside and facade of a house are impeccable if at the end of the day, when you take three steps outside you find garbage spilled out over every inch of grass. Garbage which could be food, broken objects, dirty objects, even old underwear…
Every time we speak about garbage, blame goes back to Communal trash collection services and the time, often weeks, it takes between garbage pick-ups. However, this garbage is collected and then a tractor and wagon even come to collect cut down branches and fallen leaves.
The real problem lies with the population, in their lack of discipline and sense of respect. Now, in Old Havana’s historic center, there are different garbage containers to facilitate recycling.
It’s part of the image that the government wants to show tourists, that we are a civilized country. And what happens when these tourists venture off of the guided tour (which is quite small)? What impression will they take back with them about Cuba?