Like with everything we don’t see, we assume nonexistence. In in my neighborhood of Alamar, the issue of environmental pollution is not something that people discuss.
The area is a residential neighborhood of an old rundown micro brigade* housing complex extending for blocks on end. There is almost no traffic and almost no industry, meaning that this is a place in Havana that’s almost free of pollution.
This situation makes people doubt that they are breathing toxic by-products from the incineration of garbage from a nearby dump.
At night, people frequently wonder what could be the odor — almost smoke — that fills streets closest to the Via Blanca highway. It crosses part of Alamar, extending according to the direction of the wind toward the areas nearest to the sea, a little more to the east or a little more to the west.
Some people complain about increased incidents of choking from asthma and more coughing, because on nights when there is burning, this smoke is the only air that enters homes.
The dump is located off a junction of Via Blanca that is technically outside of the city. This is a dump that in the ‘90s was exclusively for the processing of solid waste from nearby industries, and was also where buzos* practiced their trade. Later the dump became the principal site for domestic garbage.
Living in outlying Alamar brings with it the concerns about being so far from downtown, the availability of transportation, the distance from hospitals, how to get to work and access to shopping.
Ultimately many people hate living here because of the distance, but the great majority of its residents are blessed with a clean atmosphere, expansive green spaces and proximity to the sea. However, the issue of pollution has still not become a subject for debate.
* Micro-brigade: A movement of volunteer apartment building construction.
** Buzo: Literally “plungers,” meaning people whose source of subsistence was found by digging through the garbage, a common practice during the economic crisis of the ‘90s.