By Pedro P. Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I grew up a few kilometers away from Consolacion del Sur, a town in Pinar del Rio, which was always considered the most elegant and urban in the region, after the provincial capital. I remember it’s wonderful, big park, with lots of shade and full of intense green shrubs.
“I’m from Havana and this is one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen,” I heard a man once say, a long time ago.
I also remember the local Coppelia ice-cream parlor, where you could enjoy every flavor of ice cream; the Salermo pizza place, which was famous for making the best pizzas in the province and even, in the entire country; the only barber shop in town (huge by the way), with comfortable spinning chairs, large mirrors and air-conditioning; the marvelous Avellaneda movie theater, where my oldest cousin used to take me to watch kids movies or movies for everyone; I even remember Carnival with floats passing down the whole of 51st Avenue.
In reality, it was the “bonanza” period or, better yet, the time when Cuba was the showcase of Marxist Socialism in the Americas, and that’s why it received Soviet aid, which according to some economists, exceeded the sum of 10 Marshall plans together, to rebuild Western Europe after WW2. Aid which allowed there to be greater supplies and better services, all of which were accessible to the general population.
However, the ‘90s came with the crisis we all know about and the beloved place of my childhood began to fall into ruin, without anyone noticing, but steadily.
Today, we have a park with broken benches and cracked sidewalks; where the ice-cream parlor once stood, we now have a TRD (where the military sell some products in hard currency); a pizza place in ruins; numerous doorways or uncomfortable places that serve as barber shops; the movie theater can no longer be called a movie theater; and it’s been a while now since Carnival turned into swarms of people buying watered-down draft beer, with the worst and most vulgar reggaeton blasting and loads of small stands selling toys, trinkets and junk food at an exorbitant price.
One also notice how dirty the town’s streets are, full of potholes and ruined sidewalks. Piles of garbage multiply. However, the locals’ indifference to all of this is the most striking thing, as they are so caught up in their daily struggle that they don’t seem to see it. Maybe I do because I don’t actually live there and only visit once a week.
I have seen this decaying process in some of the towns I visit, but Consolacion, the town of my childhood, is taking the lead with its impoverishment.
Nevertheless, I am now seeing some timid attempts to fix things up a little. I saw a brigade working in the park, another one starting renovation works at the pizza place, and so on. Maybe they are giving it a few superficial touches as the provincial People’s Power decided to hold its July 26th celebrations there, a date we all know about [as the beginning of the Cuban revolutionary struggle]. However, I don’t believe the results will be positive in any significant way.
“Between indolence and a lack of resources, the grand ole town of my childhood has stopped being the upstanding and refined person that used to charm everyone. Today, it looks like a wrinkled old man, dirty and homeless, lying on a park bench, waiting for someone to save him from oblivion.”