Havana, Cuba’s Showcase

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES — A well-known saying clarifies that Havana is “the capital of all Cubans.” This means that it is the capital for residents in the city, those in the country and even those abroad.

But, judging by the prices of nearly everything, it would seem that it is only being thought about for those who have “flown over the puddle.” If we take a look at the birth certificate, it would say of “those from the countryside.” And if we take a look at its depressing state, it gives the impression that it is not anybody’s capital.

In the provinces, Havana is idealized. “The best things are there”, “the most beautiful”, “the most sophisticated”. There is even a discriminatory phrase: “Havana is Cuba and the rest is just fields.”

And you have to admit that it’s the largest and most heavily populated city in the country. It also has impressive architecture and holds much of the country’s cultural wealth.

But how dirty and poorly maintained Havana is! More than being designated a “Marvelous City”, it should be given the title “garbage city” or “city of puddles”.

Drains are even blocked in the most central neighborhoods and overflowing garbage containers are on almost every corner.

The sidewalks, with their magnificent corridors that help you to escape the scorching sun, reveal a dirty roof covered in grime and spiderwebs. Even in front of hard-currency stores.

Broken pavements covered in cigarette butts, cans, paper and never-ending plastic, so much that it could be collected with a shovel. And sewage that runs dark at your feet.

You only get to see neat buildings with impeccable finishings from time to time, which have been rescued for tourism or for the city historian’s office. Let these stop being rarities and become more abundant outside of the historic center’s distinguished group of buildings.

Even more of a sad sight is watching people like ants, on top of each other, surrounded by waste, by stray dogs and cats, with a battered appearance and more of them on the street than in their homes. Inventing as best they can every day with not so productive activities, that border on crime. It gives the impression that nearly nobody really works.

This looks really bad for our people. To the point that it catches tourists’ attention, who take an unforgettable photo next to a pothole or old almendron (‘50s Chevrolet).

Not even the more upscale Vedado or Playa districts have been able to escape this demise. Trees planted when capitalism flourished are now raising up pavements. Nobody fixes them, this inheritance that should be lifelong. A lot of houses are also in the process of falling apart and there isn’t enough street lighting.

Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Cienfuegos are much smaller cities, but they also have fewer resources. However, they show how clean and great they are, without escaping the disaster of this Category-5 hurricane which has been steady for half a century.

One of the most arduous and immediate tasks “the new Cuba”, the one that needs to sprout from much-needed change, will have to do will be to rescue and honor our capital even more. To convert it into a modern and functional city.

Without rejecting its charm that has never been lost, that hasn’t stopped inspiring poets and singers, the Phoenix needs to rise up out of the ashes even more seductive. And then it will be able to proudly and fairly wear the title of “Marvelous City”, which today has been put into doubt.



12 thoughts on “Havana, Cuba’s Showcase

  • Most/all of my life, I have wanted normalization. Recent experiences – and I don’t mean comments from all of you – have reversed that desire.

    Reply
  • Why don’t you pick up some of the trash instead of complaining so much? Be a good citizen.

    Reply
    • “… Why don’t you pick up some of the trash instead of complaining so much?…”

      And put it where?! LOL

      Reply
  • Osmel,
    you are painting quite a false picture of Havana. I just returned from there and what you are describing was NOT at every corner, an

    d as a matter of fact I was surprised as to how clean everything was despite the recent hurricane hit.

    And I was pretty much walking every where and occasionally took a cab or the city bus, so I got to see the city up close. I stayed in a casa particular in Vedadao and street hiked through Habana Centro and Habana Vieja, and yes even as far a Miramar.

    I did occasionally see trash pile ups and etc etc, but hardly as you so dramatically describe. And besides, trash on the streets and potholes are also very common in the U.S. in most major metropolitan areas.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but Havana is not as horrible as you describe. 🙂

    Reply
    • Did you happen to travel outside the fantasy-land, tourist area to see what the living conditions are for the every man?

      Reply
      • I street hiked quite a bit, and although conditions weren’t ideal, they were not as bad as Osmel portrayed Havana it to be. Not sure where you are referring to as “fantasy-land” but there were many areas where living conditions were not ideal, but again there was not trash piled up around every single corner generally speaking.

        Even in the U.S.A. you can find trashed neighborhoods, if you want to.

        Reply
        • “Not ideal” is very politically correct/divergent way of saying they live in third world conditions – if not worse. The fantasyland refers to the resources expended to create a new, shiny, artificial facade in tourist areas, while the vast majority of the island’s beautiful architecture, beaches, and citizens are left to fend for themselves. Oh yes, and ask the everyday Cuban (outside of “fantasyland”) how easy it is to get basic foodstuffs. You would have to be blind, ignorant, or flat-out gullible to not notice. And yes, garbage does pile up. No argument about that here.

          Reply
          • I don’t dispute that garbage is piling up in certain places, after all it is a third world country, AND we did experience the shortages when we had a very hard time finding bottled water and were unable to buy ANY bread. The shelves were over stocked with rum, but no water to be found.

            Despite all that, it was not all doom and gloom. There is a tunnel, we just have to find the light at the end of it 🙂

            “This too shall pass.”

            For now, it seems that Puerto Rico has it much worse, despite all the U.S. government assistance.

          • …Mighty long tunnel, perhaps with another train heading right for them…

          • Brother Marti, ItIs A FACT that the TERRORIST EMBARGO has a negative effect on the economy of Cuba. Despite the embargo, Cuba still provides FREE SCHOLARSHIPS fero students from THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES and even the USA to study the Profession of their dreams! FREEEE! Nobody starves in Cuba and nobody is seen sleeping on the streets on pieces of card board and searching the garbage bins for discarded food in Cuba. This happens in the so-called richest capitalist country (1774-2017) in the wotld! Facts, brother Joseph not Jose who was anti -capitalist!

          • HAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!
            My mistake. I didn’t realize this was a satirical forum.

  • I came back just Sunday from Havana, and yes there was garbage everywhere we went. We stayed in Vedado but saw it through out the city. We were even told by Cubans that Cubans don’t like to clean and therefore it stays dirty. People can make their part of their lives nice. Within their homes it is beautiful. But I did see people indiscriminately throw things out their work place window or just drop garbage on the ground. However, it did not detract from the beauty of the city (too much) nor lessen in any way the beauty of the Cuban soul. We need to work to lesson the tension between our leaders as our people already love each other.

    Reply

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