Havana Buildings Cry for Help
Photo Feature by Elio Delgado
HAVANA TIMES, July 10 — Virtually everyone agrees that building maintenance has been lacking during the first 50 years of the Cuban revolution. Some would say the reason is a lack of resources due to the US blockade and other priorities while others would argue the reason has more to do with poor planning and distribution of available material and human resources.
During the last two decades a major effort is underway by the Havana Historian’s Office to restore the architectural patrimony of the Old Town. The effort is monumental and will some day include other older parts of the city, like Centro Habana, that are crumbling with time.
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8 thoughts on “Havana Buildings Cry for Help”
Gee. Havana is looking more like Detroit these days.
It’s not either-or: imperialist intrigue — and the squalid stalinist response to it — is behind most everything wrong in Cuba, including all the old buildings falling to ruin. And I agree with Cort Greene that thru golf courses and luxury hotels lies the road to eventual counter-revolution — and AFAIC the bureaucrats supporting this capitalist sector development are a menace to the socialist revolution… Forces outside the country clearly mean to subvert them with a long-term plan for capitalist restoration thru this vector. These projects must be shelved — or modified to increase democratic control over them.
AFAIC the immediate solution to this problem — if it lies primarily in the lack of materials — is in their import from the likes of fellow ALBA socialist(sic) countries, on whatever reasonable long-term credit/barter terms.
Cort: That’s a rather specious comment. The golf course concept is very recent, and if it is eventually enacted, it’s years away (I’m personally not a fan of the idea on environmental grounds, especially in a country where water is such a valuable resource). As for the four-star hotels: despite the significant problems created by the growth of the tourism industry (negative socio-cultural impacts; economic imbalances; labour distortions), there is no question that this sector was a vital component of Cuba’s strategy to survive the Special Period (in fact, other countries would do well to emulate Cuba’s foreign-investment scheme in the tourism sector, as one that ensures that Cuba benefits in the long run from infrastructure and profits).
For those who want to understand, rather than simply complain about, the Cuban housing problem, I highly recommend Henry Louis Taylor’s “Inside El Barrio”. A brilliant book by a geographer who did some top-notch research in Havana in recent years.
Maybe if the bureaucracy were not so interested in golf courses and 4 star hotels for the rich maybe they could restore the older sections and build new housing for the workers.
We frequently grant others the right to use photos from HT on request and with the corresponding credits.
Wonderful pictures. Are they avaialable for public use?t
To speak to the issue-Venezuela I hear has a state-driven program to renovate the barrios. I don’t know how effective this is, or whether or not Chavez’s experiment will survive the next few elections, but it offers an interesting if controversial model.
This article makes me think of something about the difference between Capitalism and Stalinism (as a subtype of State Socialism in general); with Capitalism, the proletariat is alienated from property by the fact that the owners of capital and the lenders to said capital hold deeds, legal obligations, ect, while most people are left without property. With Stalinism, everyone is alienated from property by the fact that the Party is the de facto owner of everything, while all political parties in themselves are a collection of paranoid, self-serving bureaucrats who over time become alienated even from the ideologies underpinning their party.
If Cuba wants to survive the next phase of the Cold War, it needs to take a harder look at why the USSR fell (and not because Gorby was a pussy, Gorbachov was merely dealing with a host of other problems created by his authoritarian predecessors), and also the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese method.
Most importantly, the means of production needs to be democratized, and the Communist Party does too. This may not mean multiparty democracy, but it needs to be something more transparent and cooperative than what exists today. Lets not see the statues of Che receive the same treatment as those of Lenin in Lithuania. Marx never wrote his ideas as a pretext for long-term dictatorship, to the contrary he thought that Socialism offered a path to absolute democracy and egalitarianism, both politically and economically.
Does America add to the problem? Yes. Is that an excuse not to increase democracy in the workplace and collective interest in the management (and productivity) of enterprises?
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