Living in Filth

Roberto Miguel Yepe*

Uncollected garbage in the Aldabo neighborhood of Boyeros, Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — It seems Havana’s garbage collection services have abandoned the tenants of multi-family apartment buildings in the neighborhood of Aldabo, Boyeros, to their own resources. Practically no garbage was collected in April and none has been picked up this month of May. This has left behind a veritable banquet for dumpster-divers and the many stray dogs that inhabit the area.

In the midst of this dreadful situation, the locals have shown an incredible degree of discipline, taking out their waste, in the most orderly fashion possible, to the area surrounding the overstuffed containers, which can no longer be approached because of the foul smell. Not even the 28 de enero primary school has been spared this deplorable state of affairs, evincing a garbage dump near its entrance that grows in size every day (where once there were a number of garbage containers).

Happy dog.
Happy dog.

As a neighborhood resident, I have repeatedly called the garbage collection head office and the Boyeros provincial government, where they’ve told me they are going through a very difficult situation involving the garbage collection trucks and that they cannot offer any precise information as to when this situation will be rectified. I also don’t know whether any official from garbage collection or the local government has approached the locals in any way to offer information about this.

The media is not adequately reporting on this very serious and well-known situation. Serious investigative journalism is required to explain to citizens the causes of this phenomenon and what measures the authorities have adopted or are thinking of adopting to confront it in a lasting fashion.

Trash heap in front of the local primary school
Trash heap in front of the local primary school

I am fully aware of the country’s economic difficulties, but nothing justifies neglecting this basic public service in this way. They should have already looked for a solution, as the health of people, including a large number of children, is at stake, part of a sanitary and public health situation where dengue, Chikungunya and other diseases co-exist.

Recently, Cuba made great and heroic efforts to combat Ebola in Africa. It also deployed a brigade to prevent epidemics in northern Chile after an earthquake there. Many Cubans have been instilled with a deeply-rooted sense of internationalist responsibility which makes us better human beings. But such efforts, to be legitimate and to enjoy all of the popular support they deserve, must begin at home. For the residents of Aldabo, it must begin with guaranteeing the collection of the garbage that surrounds us today.


Garbage collection, in any city, goes well beyond sanitary issues. Its efficiency symbolically denotes the efficacy and efficiency of the government in question.

As such, the absence of this service produces a feeling of abandonment in citizens, a sense of irresponsibility and non-governability that has nefarious political and social consequences. If the local authorities lack the resources to confront this situation, higher levels of government should become involved – and quickly.
(*) Roberto Miguel Yepe is a jurist who resides in Aldabo, Boyeros in Havana.

10 thoughts on “Living in Filth

  • I just got back from Cuba after two weeks in Havana and, yes I agree, something needs to be done about the terrible accumulation of garbage not only in Boyeros but all over Havana and in the outskirts of Havana as well. Surely the government cannot turn a blind eye to the eyesore and health risks of garbage. Tourists expect a cleaner city! A cleaner Cuba! A clean city will help stop the spread of diseases such a dengue and the mosquito problem. This is not only am eyesore but a health concern. Come on Cuba you can do better!

  • With all the people not working in Cuba spending their time chatting in cafes or dancing and singing in the streets one would think crews could be assembled to move garbage and eradicate this obvious health problem. The fact that no one wants to devote their time to a valuable public service explains the foolishness and the lie that is socialism.

  • These are the breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that are responsible for dengue and chikungunya. By polluting water they can become a source of cholera. This is not just a “cosmetic” problem, it is a health problem.

  • Gather all up with shovels in a pile and do a controlled burn, otherwise you disease will spread.

  • emagicmtman did just as you forecast – see above!
    The concept tthat local residents could ‘reappropriate’ trucks from their workplaces demonstrates a lack of knowledge and experience of the reality of life in Cuba. But the concept that lies behind it is good – just change Miramar for Siboney!

  • Does the existence of garbage on the streets of East Oakland, California make the garage in Aldabo neighborhood of Havana, Cuba smell any better? If not, then why is your comment relevant?

  • Yeah they already did, including an inane solution.

  • The same thing happens up here…poor neighborhoods get inadequate garbage collection while wealthy and upper middle class neighborhoods receive timely collection. Perhaps the local residents from Aldabo can reappropriate some trucks from their workplaces, fill them up, then deposit the garbage in Playa or Miramar! I’m sure that would evoke a response!

  • esto es una vergüenza dudo que donde el ex presidente y el nuevo presidente no hay basura así en sus calles

  • Now there will come someone to say that in the USA, in such and such place there is also bargage on the streets,and that in CHIIIPRE and Swazilandia the garbage problem is worse.

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