Guanabo, Cuba, a Ghost Town

By Danay Riesgo Diaz  (Café Fuerte)

The old Guanabo Cinema.
The Guanabo cinema, condemned to oblivion.

HAVANA TIMES — It was the beach town where I lived most of my childhood; few people in the Cuban winter and many in summer. Even in hard times it doesn’t cease to be fascinating, magical and provocative. Friendships remain, even though they are no longer there. The type of friends you can count on without asking. Those who know what how you feel by just looking into your eyes.

My Guanabo is no longer what it was. It gets lost between the shadows of the past and the uncertainty of the future. The unhealthiness is frightening. Today I see the kids swim among the bacteria, viruses and parasites of all the septic tanks, which are now in name only. They flow into the sea like the Nile into the Mediterranean. From afar you notice the change in color and from a little closer you smell the stench. It’s no longer safe to take that refreshing afternoon dip of yesteryear. The children in the water risk getting a amoebas, cholera, gastroenteritis, or other illnesses.

The stones, glass, paper and waste of all kinds adorn the little sand left. The only thing that remains unchanged is the placid horizon to lose oneself in its nuances.

The passage of time

The playgrounds in Guanabo are oxidized and broken by the passage of time and lack of maintenance, but they are still standing, surviving life along with the houses with children. In those parks I played soccer, baseball and hide-and-seek and laughed to no end. Specifically, 484th Street Park, one of the best in Guanabo, seems to have been bombed and left in oblivion, but still has the luxury of having a guard. Small local kids still go play there because it’s the only place they can.

The Guanabo movie theater, which was the first movie theater of my life, then a local with air conditioning and first run movies, no longer casts even a shadow of its former self. Now it’s nothing. Now we have to buy movies for 1 CUC on the main street (5th. Avenue) and the idea of ??”going to the movies” died or it remains among the ruins that lie there. If the Lumiere brothers entered the remains of the Guanabo cinema, they would repent their invention.

I was curious to approach a library that seemed to float or worse, sinking like the Titanic. I remember it was on the same street as the cinema. Some old books, which for old would not stop being interesting- can be seen through the broken wooden windows. I couldn’t go in because the entrance was flooded, but at first glance you could see the desolation, the smell of oblivion, the poverty, chaos, depression, despondency and discouragement.

A general sadness

I walked away and I started thinking about how children can live in a ghost town, in a town mortally wounded from neglect and abandonment. Then I felt fear, fear for the future that awaits many of my former neighbors -above all- the smallest and defenseless.

5 thoughts on “Guanabo, Cuba, a Ghost Town

  • Guanabo was a beautiful beach town, as a child we used to run up and down in our bicycles, go to the movies, la cremeria, el hatuy, el betty , it was a family friendly town, everyone knew each other. Too bad the 1rst avenue next to the ocean disappeared long ago, because no one wanted to clean it.

  • Thieves. They have stolen these houses to sell them to the ignorant or opportunistic. These houses were owned by middle class people who worked their back posterior to own them. Now you are helping these thieves. Be careful. If some of us come back with original ownership we will not have mercy, you are as devious and degenerate as those that are selling. A lot of innocent blood was sacrificed for envy and greed. May God have mercy on your souls and make you rethink

  • That alone could contribute to the community’s decline!

  • I have many friends in Guanabo that I can count on. I find it to be a pleasent town with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Correct me if I’m wrong but is the current decline in infrastructure a result of a government strategy to encourage an exodus from the area to make way for foreign / state tourist development interests?


  • Did Guanabo ever resolve it’s water problem? We rented a house on the beach there a few years ago and the owners warned us to shower before nightfall because once the water tank was empty there was no water in the entire City until mid-morning the next day. At the time, this happened every day. Even when there is water, it stinks and tastes like it smells. I doubt it has gotten any better but it’s worth asking.

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