Crossing the ‘Gulfito’ Bridge

Osmel Almaguer

Cojimar, Havana. photo: Caridad

Today is July 26, a festive day in which the 1953 assault of the Moncada Barracks is commemorated, an important moment in the nation’s later 1959 victory.

Knowing that it would be hard to catch a bus from my mother’s house, in the eastern outlying township of Cojimar, I decided to walk to the house of some friends in the neighboring Alamar community.

The shortest route is via El Gulfito (the cove).  I crossed all of Cojimar, looking at the many one and two-story homes, enclosed and with pure breed dogs in the yards.  I also noted the ornate columns and other excesses that help lend an air of class to the facades.

This is a type of housing representing an attempt to avoid in our model of socialism, one which prefers the collectivization of life as embodied in the multifamily buildings so abundant in most municipalities throughout Cuba.

Cojimar is a neighborhood distinction and, according to my parents, “one of the most counter-revolutionary ones.”  Customs implanted following the “dictatorship of the proletariat” didn’t stick in this township with the same force as in other places.

Cojimar, Havana Street. photo: Caridad

The changes in Cuba resulting from the Special Period crisis of the 90s, causing an opening to external influences, a gradual process of privatization of life began, if not at the institutional level (which has indeed begun to some degree) then at least in terms of family life. In this, Cojimar has been at the head.

The grace of its housing stock contrasts with the streets, which hardly exist.  There are so many potholes that the space that they occupy makes up most of the surface of the asphalt.  Still noting the landscape under the intense sun, I made it to El Gulfito, the estuary of the Cojimar River, which further inland divides Cojimar from Alamar.

Walking along an equally deteriorated street that borders the cove, I came to the bridge that crosses the river.  The recreational center there, also called El Gulfito, it takes its name from that place.  Previously it was widely considered a favorite facility and was frequented by area youth.  Today it has the air of being out of date, out of fashion.

El Gulfito has a miniature golf course, without fences and without anyone controlling or taking care of the place.  No one is there to charge admission and no one maintains or repairs the attraction.  Some youths try to kill their boredom with golf clubs obtained from who knows where, because these don’t exist in stores, not even in ones that sell in hard currency.

There is a bar that gives the appearance of having been built with unpainted aluminum garbage can material.  In it, the State sells beer from the tap.  A short unshaven barman, with the shirt of his uniform open, exhibits a chest stained by the alcohol he has drank.

Poor-sounding music of the 1960’s blares from a sound-system that must be the same age. Wandering around, people harmonize with the atmosphere, though they too seem frozen in time, dull, idle, drinking their watered-down beer and hoping a little more time has passed.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

4 thoughts on “Crossing the ‘Gulfito’ Bridge

  • CED I could not help but noticed from one of your comments that you live in Cuba. Are you Cuban or are you a foreigner in Cuba?

  • Sounds good in paper but collective decision making is only good when “an individual or small group” of people
    determines how to implement the decisions.
    I have observed, reading speeches of the elite, that they have a clear idea of the problems, as to the implementation for solutions, well,… that’s another topic for discussion.
    It reminds me of the expression ” A Camel is the result of comitee trying to design a Horse”

  • Grok it’s not just Cojimar with the serious infrastructure issues is practically the whole of Cuba some places worst than others but is every place.

  • In even a materially-poor but functioning socialist democracy, the local councils would be allotted whatever amount of money and resources was available for them from the larger regional, etc. councils. Then by democratic decision, the most pressing local projects would be funded and undertaken. Over the years, the most urgent tasks would be taken care of, naturally — and then the more ‘optional’ ones could and would be undertaken.

    It seems to me, from the article, that Cojimar has serious infrastructure issues at the very least. And for that matter: AFAIC every single neighborhood council everywhere has the responsibility to create at least a minimal community center complex — complete with spaces where the locals can gather to drink coffee (or anything else) and socialize and make plans, and even study, etc. Perhaps even 24/7. Cojimar, OTOH, seems to have ‘given up the ghost’ in that regard. AFAIC this is because there is a lack of a ‘socialist vision’ in Cuba in which most citizens can believe now.

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