I frequently go through Havana’s inter-provincial bus terminal because my job is located nearby, in the city’s central municipality of Revolution Square. Passing through there daily are thousands of people constantly going to and coming from the various provinces of the country. Despite the fare increases that these trips underwent recently, the terminal remains full of people 24 hours a day.
Several days ago I stopped along my way and began to observe many of the things that happen there every day
Arriving were everyone from children and teens to adults and even senior citizens practically incapable of walking. Speaking among themselves some said that even thought they were penniless they had reached their goal: Havana. From what I could see, for these people Havana must look like paradise on earth, the Mecca of civilization or something close to that.
It is an invasion of the capital, despite having poorly paved streets full of potholes, buildings falling down with the passage of time and the lack of maintenance. Yet many of these people yearn to be able to come here. Some have family members or at least some friend offering them a place to stay. Others aren’t so much interested in lodging; they’ve come to see if it suits them, or if they can conduct “business,” or simply to see something they’ve never seen before.
I know that we all yearn to visit places, countries, other cultures, etc., but everything must be done reasonably, with good sense and order. The Cuban capital cannot be allowed the luxury of throwing dirty, ragged people begging for charity in its doorways and passages. That distorts our image and gives rise to countless negative comments that we could well do without.
I don’t mean to say that everyone who conducts themself like that is from another province, there are Havana residents like this too; but every day, instead of seeing the number reduced, it’s being multiplied. Thousands of public inspectors wander our streets, and on occasion they fine people or pick them up for selling peanuts for next to nothing just to subsist. However, actions by other people go ignored.
I was able to witness one of these deadbeats — dirty and looking bad — requesting money from several people. When they didn’t give him any he insulted them and started to get violent. Should we allow this? Where are the public inspectors and keepers of the order?
In fact, that old image of our society, which we could have once argued had disappeared, is flourishing again. Where are the standards and respect for the public? Why do we have to again run into something that had been eradicated from Cuban society?
I stopped to think about how a few months ago I went out to the Jose Marti International Airport here in Havana and was completely taken aback by the dirt that blanketed that place. I commented about it to my sister who was returning from a trip, and she didn’t understand this situation either.
At that time I contrasted the airport with the example of the inter-provincial bus terminal, but now the example has gone out the window. The problem is not due to the lack of cleaning, because you can always find workers there busy maintaining the corridors and cleaning the bathrooms. The problem is that maintenance also includes not allowing vagabonds to virtually pitch camp in public places and to fall all over people as they beg for handouts or insult them; plus their being intoxicated and having unkempt appearance doesn’t leave much to be desired.
The Bible tells us that it’s necessary to help one’s neighbor, but not this way; not exposed to people who are snatching baggage, wallets, or purses; not with us being subject to obscene language or even violence.
Is this the society we’ve helped to build with the effort of all? Can we enjoy a brief or long stay in a place like the bus station? Is this the image that our country would like to show to the world?