14ymedio, Luz Escobar, February 2, 2019 — In the living room of the singer Haydée Milanés a group of artists and independent journalists sorts the donations sent by friends and neighbors. Clothing, towels, sheets, toys, shoes, candles, as well as powdered milk, cans of meat, cookies, bread, and bottled water.
They have been mobilized via social media to return to the streets of the areas of Havana most affected by last Sunday’s tornado. The previous days they went to Luyanó. Now it’s time to help the people of Regla.
Among the artists one notes some well-known faces, like the musicians Jorgito Kamankola and Athanai or the film director Carlos Lechuga. At the stroke of one a caravan of eight cars filled with clothing and food goes out.
When they arrive in Regla the police block their access. The problem is resolved with a visit to the authorities by the local People’s Power, which designates a “representative of the government” to accompany the caravan.
It’s a matter of going to the most affected areas to bring help to those who have lost the roof from their house and spent days sleeping in the elements, like the residents of Calzada Vieja. They haven’t had electricity since the tornado went through that area last Sunday.
On that street utility linemen were working, assuring that “they were almost” finished. “We’re not from Havana but we’ve come to help fix this disaster,” says one of them as he accepts a bottle of water to relieve his thirst.
The “representative of the government” looks for the president of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) to see who are the most affected on those streets. She comes back with some addresses and begins to pass out the gathered articles. But very soon everyone realizes that, except for two little houses that were in very bad condition, all the homes on the street have a roof and aren’t very damaged.
Some people approach the cars asking for candles and water but the government representative yells at them: “Nobody can come here, we will go house by house.”
One of the volunteers from the caravan approaches the residents to ask where they can find houses with small children and houses without a roof. The young woman delivers water, milk, bread, candles, and cans of meat to those families.
Feelings run high and the residents begin to scream their dissent. “It’s always the same and here everybody needs help, the president of the CDR has a lot of nerve, they always send help for the same houses every time that someone comes with donations.”
Faced with that situation the representative of the government orders the caravan to withdraw and assures that she will guide the group to a new place called La Ciruela. It’s difficult to enter that area because the police have blocked off many streets.
In La Ciruela the same scene is repeated as in Calzada Vieja. There are hardly any houses without roofs, the poverty and bad living are the same as always, increased by lack of electricity. The president of the CDR also appears here, reporting on two critical cases. A young mother who lives in a house that has lost its roof and an older couple whose house half fell down. They leave them water, food, and some clothing.
“Thank you very much for coming here, my girl, I don’t like to ask for anything or make a fuss,” says Lourdes Alfonso Villegas, who lives on Gerardo Granda street in a house that has lost half its roof.
Again the group establishes that the most in need are not here. The caravan leaves the representative of the government and heads for Luyanó, which the artists know well because they passed out help in that area on two occasions this week.
In Luyanó everything is easier. Walking street by street, visiting house by house, they leave everything they have left. It’s already nighttime when they finish the deliveries. Before leaving, they take a photo at the foot of a church that has lost its belltower.
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
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