The Latest Building Collapse in Old Havana

Text and photos by Yunier Gutierrez  (Lahoradecuba)

Building collapse victims in Old Havana

HAVANA TIMES – Weakened by the heavy rains that have recently hit the capital, as well as high temperatures, the roof of a multi-family apartment block (57 Monte Street, between Agramonte and Cardenas Streets in Havana) caved in on the afternoon of July 22nd.

The roof began to fall down in bits at approximately 5:30 PM, when some of the residents in the building were coming home from work. The old wooden posts placed in parallel, weren’t able to bear the rain and immediately gave way.

“I really don’t know how we managed to get out, we didn’t have much time and I was out of my wits,” one of the residents affected told La Hora de Cuba.

This unfortunate incident didn’t result in the loss of human lives, luckily. Residents from the twenty-six apartments in the building are now living out on the street or have been taken in by friends and relatives. Many do not know what condition their belongings at are in.

In spite of the upsetting experience they are living, some of the victims are firmly holding their ground and have decided not to leave the place because they are afraid the building will be razed to the ground and they will be sent to state-run shelters [where some people stay years and even decades], with no return date.

As July 23rd passed by, they hadn’t received any food or water, while still waiting for some official to worry about the situation they are facing.

Elderly and children are usually the most affected in these bitter experiences.

In recent years, the number of collapses has increased in the Cuban capital, especially in Old Havana and Central Havana, as a result of the deplorable condition of housing and the climate phenomena which speeds up the collapse of these old buildings, making them lethal for those who (without any decent alternative in sight) insist on living in them.

31 thoughts on “The Latest Building Collapse in Old Havana

  • Should one comment the comprehensive commentaries after Obamas Policy on Cuba hast shown how wrong populist Handshake diplomacy can get ? I visited Cuba in 1999 on a Cruise Shop. I stayed 12 years and left in 2011, quote different to the Person I was when I entered that Greatest Island of the Caribbean.

  • This article and the comments thereto could have been written about Cuban 10 years ago. Nothing has really changed since Raul took over from his brother more than 10 years ago. Now even with Diaz-Canel as President and Raul still calling the shots as head of the Communist party, there is little reason to believe that change in Cuba in the near future will occur. Well, that’s not entirely true. No doubt that conditions will worsen as support from Venezuela continues to disappear.

  • Several years ago I saw a documentary from Cuba which had official sponsorship. It actually admitted that life in the rural areas of Oriente Province, living conditions are largely unchanged since 1959! (no electricity, primitive roads, and palm roofs on shacks, etc.)

  • Tourists should also be shown the lovely seaside estates of the Castro Bros. Unlike many homes in Cuba, their estates are not collapsing, nor is sewage overflowing from them.

    For so many years, foreigners and sympathizers were fed the myth that Fidel lived in a simple apartment on Calle 11a, and earned a salary of 100 pesos monthly!

  • It was also Cuba’s insular geography that made it possible for Fidel to completely seal off Cuba from the outside world and to prevent the spreading of subversive concepts like “glasnost” from ever reaching Cuba.

  • Also be aware that cholera is now present in Cuba, due to widespread breakdowns of septic tank and sewerage systems.

  • When San Fidel was still in charge of ruining his island, “ordinary” Cubans were denied access to any of those hotels.
    I myself witnessed this happen in front of the Habana Libre in 1978.

  • I am indeed very familiar with the CDR’s.
    Unfortunately, American leftists who idolize Cuba under “castrismo” simply have little or no understanding or awareness of the role of the “Comites”!

  • The type of government is the problem but level of corruption and fact that people are not allowed the freedom to use resources in a better manner. Canada was in there along with Russia. We did not trust the Cuban government to have a nuclear program. That is why the peer plant was stopped. Mexico and Brazil have many problems but 90 percent of the people live better in Mexico than in Cuba at this time 40 years ago Canada was willing make Cuba a free trade zone with Canada. With some movement of people back and forth as we liked the idea free health care and low cost education. Canada was in there before the Russian collapse. We wanted certain human rights and freedom to run cooperative and small enterprises with a portion of the profits or produce going to the government. The Cuban government made it very clear that they would sooner have food and power shortages than work with Canada and other nonprofit groups.

  • We have items seized at custom like medical equipment and medicines. A nonprofit group had to pay duties of 150 percent of the value of items to be given to nuns and women that do house visits. Bikes are needed for nurses that do house calls but the government police have a habit of taking them. The current government in Cuba is very corrupt and needs to change it way of operation. Hard work needs to be rewarded and a free market zone like in other countries for food production and light manufacturing. We seen this at the time of the last special period. Instead the Cuban government wasted huge amounts of of money and aid from certain countries. I complained about the corruption to the Cuban embassy in Canada after getting nowhere in Cuba. The government didn’t care and only paid lip service to my complaints.

  • An excellent reply providing very good advice to anyone who really wants to experience the reality of Cuba. If taking that advice and walking the blocks where most Cubans live, folks like Pete will note that on every block there is a President of the CDR. They will see the roaming dogs and children in bare feet playing baseball by using a stone wrapped in rags as a ball and a crude stick as a bat. They will see the groups of people waiting patiently for the next batch of bread and the panderia and then when getting a loaf or two, taking a quick bite to stave off hunger.
    You are correct also Victor when you advise seeing the beautiful areas frequented by tourists, for they show what Cuba as it once was – and could potentially become.

  • Pete
    There is a tourists facade to Cuba. It is like a hollywood movie set. Once you get behind the set, you will see the reality of Cuban life.

    Go to old Havana, many parts of the city where touritst go and it will seem things are o.k., but they are not. Go way out of the city, not the resorts, not the hotels that cater to the tourists, not the beaches set up for the tourists enjoyment, but take the time to stay at a casa particular way out away from the city.
    And by the way, a casa particular is a luxury for the average Cuban. (running hot water, air-conditioning, nicely finished room, etc. required as part of their goverment issued license to run the casa particular )

    Most cubans do not have hot-water or regularly running water, for that matter. They take bucket baths. Heat up a pail of water and scoop it up to take a bath.

    But walk in the neighborhoods away from the tourists. You will see water seeping out of the ground, sidewalks and streets, because the water distribution is over 60 years old and in need of repair. Sewer water leaking in places.
    There are many parts of the city where the water is turned on for just two hours in a small zone, You have two hours to get your tanks on the roof filled. Then you wait for two days. This repeats itself in hundred of zones. They turned on the water on a limited basis, because if they left the water on all the time the reservoir would empty out in days. That is how leaky the water distribution is and the goverment does not fixt it, unless it is in an area that attracts tourists.

    Many neighborhoods, away from the tourists view, the garbage accumulates for weeks and months. The streets are full of pot-holes and it goes on and on.

    Many Cubans survive by stealing from their employer, the goverment. Cement, steel reinforcing bars, lumber, and many other industries so they can do some work on the side or sell it on the side.

    Many Cubans survive by catering to the tourist trades by selling art and crafts made from may things we would normally throw away. Most of those Cubans have college degrees, but cannot find employment in their field of study. The most coveted area of study is languages, specially english so they get a position in a restaurant, museum, tour guides and places catering to the tourists. Do buy some of these crafts from the vendors in the streets.

    And dont buy the “embargo” argument in its entirety. Yes, there is some effect on the economy due to the embargo, but look at all the countries that trade with Cuba. Spain, Canada, China, Russia, France, U.K. S.Korea, Mexico, Switserland, Germany and many others. I find new chinese built buses, cars, appliances, tools, etc. Last year I saw new Russian Ladas (all for state owned taxi service).

    The fault lies in the centralized economy model, in essence a monopoly run by politician for politicians benefit. Most of the populaton works for the goverments. The workers do not have an incentive to work harder. There is a saying in Cuba. We pretend to work while they pretend to pay us.

    Do still go, for most Cubans are friendly and very hard-working. And there are many beautiful places to visit. Enjoy it the best way you can.

  • Two wrongs don’t make a right Emily. If you had paused to think you would have noted that Geoff was responding to the incorrect word used by David McIntyre and carefully inserted the correct one. The US Cuban Democracy Act introduced an embargo, not a blockade, hence Cuba being able to trade internationally – even if you haven’t noticed. Or are you speaking upon behalf of the totalitarian Castro regime – which denies truth!

  • The materials to build new installations are only for hotels for tourist the ppl of Cuba can wait another 60 years of poverty.

  • For once Manuel you have exceeded the usual one-liners. But by correctly indicating that Brexit was the consequence of English voters, you exclude other islanders – the Scots and the Northern Irish, both of whom voted in favour of remaining in the EU. I can assure you that the Scots in particular have every reason for seeking independence – and fought many times against England in endeavor to retain that independence.

  • Firstly David McIntyre, you disclose your political affiliation by incorrectly describing the US embargo as “a blockade” the terminology used by the Castro communist regime. It is quite clear in both English and Spanish that an embargo and a blockade are different. The embargo does not deny Cuba the right to trade, but UN regulations do forbid the export of military equipment to North Korea – you may recall Panama impounding military armaments and a complete fighter plane, hidden under sugar in the hold of a Cuban vessel bound for North Korea?
    Finance is however certainly a problem, as originally the USSR, later Venezuela, China and also Russia have provided financial support for the Castro regime. Without foreign support and investment, Cuba’s tourism sector would collapse.
    If you were better informed about the reality of Cuba, you would necessarily have to revise your view.

  • Mr. Goodman, C.D.R. does that mean anything to you?. It is a kind of surveillance system set up by the communist party early in 1960s. The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution exist in every neighborhood of the country. They report everything and anything up the chain of command on any disgruntled citizen or dissenting views. They nip at the bud any thing that threatens the view of the party. They get hauled into the police station for interrogation as a warning. If it is serious they will hold you for days or weeks without any due process. And you can guess what happens if that dissenter keeps it up. Jail for a long time.
    In January 1963 my mother,, brother and I were getting ready to leave Havana. With only a weeks notice. The CDR came over to the apartment to make sure of what was being left behind and were only allowed one suitcase for the three of us.
    That CDR is very much the reason why there is no uprising.
    If you don’t “volunteer” for some community activity, the CDR knows it. If you don’t participate in the government May Day parade, they know it. And it goes on and on.

  • There is no freedom of association in Cuba. Private humanitarian or assistance organizations are not allowed. Human rights organizations are considered illegal because the government denies then their required registration. Anyone traveling to Cuba should bring small amounts of assistance that could get through customs and either give it directly to Cuban families or to any church. A small number of Catholic nuns make good use of anything you could give them.

  • When you go to Havana take basic medicines, powder milk, chicken bouillon, clothes you could spare, soap, flashlight, rechargeable batteries. There are shortages of water which is distributed to thousands of families by tank trucks. Water is often contaminated. There is diarrhea and other illnesses because of it. Only drink bottled water which foreigners can afford to purchase in hotels. If you go to Copelia, the famous ice cream parlor, refused to enter through the apartheid line set aside for tourists and wait with Cubans, but the line takes a lot longer. Do not engage in unprotected sex, the Government falsifies AID’s statistics. Do not argue with police officers or government officials, you may be a tourists but there is no rule of law, you could be jailed and American Embassy cannot help.
    Give medicine, used clothes, children shoes directly to families, or to any church of any denomination. Stay with a Cuban family, use public transportation, accompany them to the rationing line. See Cuba as a Cuban. Pray for them.

  • Cuba trades with most nations around the world. But the Cuban people are prohibited to import or export anything by the regime. The engine of Cuba’s progress for three hundred years, the sugar industry was destroyed by Fidel. Cuba now imports sugar. The regime’s builds beautiful hotels and tourist facilities, but fails to provide minimum maintenance for the Cuban preppie. The homes of the Communist rulers do not collapse. Raül Castro should turn the hotels into shelters. The Cuban people need help but the regime does not permit distribution of international humanitarian assistance DIRECTLY to the Cubans. Raul’s Cuba shows socialism in action: collapsing buildings, political prisoners, deployment of Cuban soldiers to repress the Venezuelans, hunger and despair. And foreign fellow travelers who blame the United States for the regime’s crimes .

  • Thanks for calling it a Blockade!!

  • They have island psychology meaning a high sense of being independent. Maybe that is what is at play here .Islanders love Independence, just look at England now and Brexit.

  • Cubans can complain all they want to about the blockade (embargo) but they have plenty of countries to trade with. The world’s factory, China, will trade with them, so you can’t lay all their problems at the feet of the US. They were propped up by the Soviets and now the bastion of hope that is Venezuela can no longer pay their way. The simple truth is that communism doesn’t work; never has, never will. Only when they overthrow their corrupt communist regime they can hope to join the modern world.

  • I am leaving for Havana Aug 30th. I cannot wait! I want to see it for myself with my own eyes. I know lots of Cuban families that left everything and fled when they could.
    I can’t imagine what that was like or how that felt. Brave people.

  • It’s no good blaming the cuban governmen , there’s still a blockcade in place so materials and finance is the problem, any blame or protest should be directed towards the capitalist system that supports the embargo and denies Cuba the right to trade

  • Unfortunately, Fidel did such a perfect job of hermetically sealing his island off from the outside world that the vast majority of the people have no recollection of any time when “socialism” was not ruling the country, or what types of other political systems are available for them to consider other than the “castrista” myth!

  • No, in a worker’s paradise like Cuba, there is no need for private charity (because poverty has been totally eliminated, and the workers and peasants have full political power!) LOL!

  • The little that these people possess has been lost, yet another illustration that in Cuba the infrastructure including housing is crumbling and that for some odd reason, there are no appropriate social programs to aid those who lose their homes and possessions. Where are all the much vaunted social benefits of living in a “socialist” controlled country?
    I have never found any presence of the Salvation Army in Cuba. Does communism require or recognize charities?

  • So very sad. Breaks my heart to even imagine how the families that lived in this building feel. Cuba desperately needs to update the infrastructure in many, many areas of the country.

  • I think the time is come that people of Cuba raise against that terrible regime of those stupide old communist system.
    I love the cuban people and the country ,my wife is cuban but the cuban people are to sorry what i dat but i cant see anymore whats going on Cuba and the cuban people,but fuck that old communist system.

  • I know that there is a Salvation Army there, what kind of relief housing do they provide for such truma events? So sad to hear, that there was no help in providing emergency food.

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