Santiago de Cuba: Post Sandy Reconstruction Brings Contrasts & Questions

By Dariela Aquique (Photos: Janis Hernandez)

The new "Airport Restaurant" in San Pedrito, Santiago de Cuba
The new “Airport Restaurant” in San Pedrito, Santiago de Cuba

HAVANA TIMES — The morning of October 25, 2012, will be an unpleasant memory for the people of Santiago de Cuba for a long time to come. The horror of hurricane Sandy caused the loss of human lives (not many, thank God) and all types of material damage.

No precautions sufficed against the nefarious onslaught of the winds. Our first photo feature, completed some hours after the devastating incident, gathered truly sad images across the city.

For several days, the city was without electricity, communications and drinking water. Little by little, all services were restored. Many houses and apartments, however, weren’t so lucky.

In a second piece on the incident, written exactly six months after the tragedy, I wrote (and it is well worth remembering) that, while recovery efforts were undertaken promptly, they were by no means complete.

Vivenda dañada en Calle Escario y San Miguel
Damaged home on Calle Escario and San Miguel

Today, exactly one year since the hurricane struck the province, the provincial head of Housing, Alfredo Torres, reports that 54 percent of the damage to houses remains to be repaired and only 10 percent of the cases involving the complete collapse of the dwelling have been addressed.

It is said that, in ten years, more than 29 thousand homes for those affected by the hurricane will be constructed and unsanitary conditions in different neighborhoods will be eliminated through the use of modern construction technologies.

Though local and foreign construction brigades are working in different parts of the city to erect buildings for the families who lost their homes to the hurricane and the State is covering fifty percent of the costs of the building materials sold to the victims, recovery efforts are still not enough.

The fact of the matter is that there is something of a pebble in many people’s shoes: if so much damage was done to people’s most prized possession, their homes, why were so many resources destined to other projects?

Though it is true that many facilities and establishments built or repaired through these initiatives make the city prettier, it is also true that a considerable quantity of construction materials and labor were destined to the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada garrison this past July.

Hotel Rex in Santiago de Cuba.
Hotel Rex in Santiago de Cuba.

One case in point was the major repair of the Hotel Rex, undertaken for the simple reason that a number of the individuals involved in the attack on the garrison stayed there at one point.

The monumental art gallery located near the former garrison, the reconstruction and modernization of the Abel Santamaria park (where the military hospital was once located) are other examples.

Other establishments whose facades or interiors were restored or renovated have opened around the city, like the hard-currency (and perennially empty) chocolate shop.

The most questionable initiative was building a curious restaurant (shaped like an airport, and fitted with a plane), in the neighborhood of San Pedrito, one of the most severely damaged in the city.

Thus, among other things, I would like to share with you these photos, which contrast the still-damaged houses with the recently opened State establishments.

Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery. On your PC or laptop, you can use the directional arrows on the keyboard to move within the gallery. On cell phones use the keys on the screen.

7 thoughts on “Santiago de Cuba: Post Sandy Reconstruction Brings Contrasts & Questions

  • As flawed as the situation is (revealed by Dariela’s article and Janice’s fotos), in the case of Habana Vieja what is heartening is that, despite such redevelopment, many low- and middle-income Cubans continue to live there. Here in the States, such “redevelopment” usually means the death-knell for such dynamic neighborhoods. The working class, lower-middle class, young folks and struggling young artists are pushed out by skyrocketing rents or tax rates, to be replaced by the bland homogonization high income folks. Besides such well-known examples as the Village in N.Y.C., while attending grad school at St. John’s College in Annapolis, in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, for example, the blacks there were pushed out of the downtown neighborhood in which they had resided since before the Civil War (as skilled freedmen who were either tradesmen or professionals, etc.) Instead, their town houses, on the narrow streets around and between the state capital and the waterfront, became new abodes for yuppies.
    In Santiago, as many resources should be placed into rehabbing/rebuilding the residences damaged or destroyed by Sandy. If not, then what was the purpose of the Revolution?!

  • What a waste of space the chocolate place is ,what stupidity !! Hopefully someone with a more entrepreneurial hand will take it over.I can see the hand of Havana’s Eusebio Leal here, with the high end perfumeries and pharmacies in Old Havana.There ,this place would make sense,obviously it is not for Santiago.It would serve much better as a boutique department store for locals and visitors.

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