HAVANA TIMES — My sore throat woke me up. I went to the bathroom to gargle and looked out the window. An eerie glow was visible in the sky to the east. The fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Terminal, which started last Friday, is not something that can only be seen on television screens or through social networks. It is also here, in Havana, where a dark cloud, with the residue of the combustion, covers the city while people search for answers they cannot find.
My dog Chiqui raises her snout and hides her tail between her paws before hiding under the sofa. My mother calls me because she has to go outside and she doesn’t know what precautions to take. I tell her to wear a mask and to avoid at all costs getting wet in the rain if there is a downpour. In the background the official television report sounds, showing party leaders in a meeting in an air-conditioned room and some announcers who avoid precise words at all costs. “Explosion” or “alarm” is not said, nor are the words “danger” or “threat” pronounced.
They are two parallel realities. While in the microphones there is talk of overcoming and resisting, in my neighborhood people raise their eyes and fear. We can’t even say that it was dawn in the city because the horizon was a dark smudge this morning. My eyes burn and when a ray of sunlight manages to cross the clouds, a strange, almost ghostly golden line is projected on the floor of the balcony. My head throbs and I try to drink as much water as I can; yes, from that we have collected before the start of the fire, because the rains may have contaminated the reserves between Saturday and today.
I review my list of the most fragile people I know in this situation. The old lady on the corner who had to stand in line at dawn to buy bread, the friend who has a small plot of vegetables and fears that so much waste in the air will end up on that food, and if he can’t sell it he won’t have the money to support his family, and the mother with a son in the Military Service whose heart is in suspense because her boy could be sent to the disaster area, even if he lacks the experience and age to face the monster of fire.
I never believed that this system’s capacity for disaster could reach such a point, that mismanagement, violation of security protocols, laziness and voluntarism would take us to these limits. As an optimist by nature, I thought that even the official bungling had a limit or a circumscribed margin of effect, that they could not harm so many people in such a short time. I was wrong. This system is lethal. Its ineptitude kills and kills many. The sky of my city today is screaming those truths.
Translated by Translating Cuba.