In films, documentaries and music videos the image presented of Havana is one of ruined buildings, dirty streets with trash strewn everywhere, shuttered businesses, and badly dressed citizens wandering around aimlessly. The Havana of Morro Castle, the Paseo del Prado, clean streets, elegant shops and citizens appropriately dressed is only a memory for those of advanced age.
The ongoing disappearance of buildings, homes and public places seems endless. One has only to walk through any urban district and look around to notice detached cornices, missing plaster, exposed bricks that have been eaten away, missing glass and woodwork, to say nothing of buildings that have not been painted and stone that has not been washed for years. This spiral of decay affects the conditions of every type of building. A few days ago I wrote about hospitals. Today I address the issue of schools.
The neglect and decay of the buildings of most of the old private schools—mainly La Salle of Vedado and La Salle of Nuevo Vedado (La Salle University), Marists of la Vibora, Piarists of Havana and Piarists of La Vibora, Villanueva Catholic University and others—is more than worrying. A lack of maintenance and repairs over the course of many years has left some of these buildings, designed and constructed to be magnificent educational centers, practically in ruins, threatening the physical aspects of the city itself and even affecting it qualitatively.
In the case of these schools it is inconceivable how attention could not have been paid, allowing them to deteriorate, while many current educational centers have been set up in inappropriate locations, such as re-purposed houses and residential buildings, or in facilities built of lesser quality. The loss of all this architectural richness as well as the loss of the value to be gained from their use results from the widespread apathy that has afflicted our society like a plague for too many years. Those responsible can provide dozens of justifications in their defense, but the stark reality of a city gone to seed indicts them.
February 23 2013