Photo feature by Elio Delgado Valdes
Text by Elvira Pardo Cruz
HAVANA TIMES — Many are the obstacles we must dodge as we head for work or go out for a stroll around the city. One sees men wearing helmets and overalls in hectic movement, oblivious to the hot tropical sun and what day of the week it is. Their minds are firmly set on installing underground gas, electricity, fiber-optic and telephone pipelines.
People of all ages – and even those with disabilities – dodge, jump and climb over the trenches dug up by these men, such that one feels one is watching the Olympics at times. Some are helped by a worker and there is always the charitable old lady who offers these hard-working and willful men a bottle of water or a cup of coffee.
The installation of underground piping began in January of 2013. A large investment to restore this infrastructure using cutting edge technology is being made. These efforts involve brigades from the Union Nacional Electrica (National Electric Union, UNE), Recursos Hidraulicos y Aguas de la Habana (Havana Hydraulic and Water Resources Center), the telephone company ETECSA, the Empresa de Gas Manufacturado de La Habana (Natural Gas Company of Havana) and the Direccion de Redes Tecnicas (Technical Networks Office) of the Provincial People’s Power Assembly.
The Direccion de Inversiones (Investment Office), Puerto Carenas construction company and Plan Maestro para la Revitalizacion Integral de la Habana Vieja (“Master Plan for the Comprehensive Restoration of Old Havana”), projects attached to the Office of the City Historian, are also participating in the project. Cuba’s National Housing Institute, the Road and Traffic Center and the Servicios Especializados de la Construccion (Specialized Construction Services, SECONS) verify the state of the buildings before work begins. The company GEOCUBA and Pinar del Rio’s GEOMINERA have also taken on the challenge.
The work goes on from sunrise to sunset. The narrow streets make it impossible to install all of the pipelines at once.
Old Havana is in a state of commotion, as the repair of parks and old buildings as magnificent as the Capitolio, the Manzana de Gomez complex or the Parque Cristo, as well as the restoration of housing, is also underway. Old Havana, it seems, is being reborn from the foundation up.
Passersby, tourists and locals look on, marveling at the pace of the work. A building being built on the corner, a long piece of pipe being transported by a dozen men, a dumper loaded with construction materials, a crane lifting the concrete foundation off an old building, an enormous truck being loaded with rubble, the deafening noise of sledge-hammers breaking up the pavement, the sirens of fire-fighters, rushing to the scene of a fire, making their way through the tight streets – many are the sights during the day, but people remain positive as they head home to rest, harboring the dreams yet to be fulfilled.
Tomorrow will be another day, the repair work will continue, the city will stir like a giant, and the streets will show the dug-up trenches that are a testament to these efforts, undertaken in sunlight or in rain.
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