14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, November 3, 2023 — “It’s still there, growing every day,” Clara complains while pointing out the mountain of waste on 30th Street at the corner of 37th Street, in the Havana municipality of Playa. The woman, who contacted 14ymedio last October to report the situation, once again asks for help due to the apathy of the Community Services Company.
“It’s like Doña Basura [Lady Trash], it’s everywhere,” Clara laments, alluding to the children’s series Fraggle Rock, a part of her adolescence. “What happens is that this ‘filth lady’ is not at all nice, she is horrible, she smells bad and she has brought a battalion of flies to this neighborhood.”
Clara’s block is not a central avenue, nor is it one of those roads where tourists or official delegations pass. Frequented only by residents in the areas and a few visitors, the street is not among those prioritized by the Government of Havana to collect waste.
Something different happens in the surroundings of the nearby Cira García international clinic, where tourists and diplomats are treated, and which look cleaner of waste. A panorama that is repeated in the also upcoming Miramar House of Music, where “people with hard currency go, not like us who are Cubans with national currency,” Clara says ironically.
Those who are not lucky enough to live near the clinic or the House of Music are experiencing a true ordeal. “On this street we have been left incommunicado because of the garbage,” denounces Yantiel, a 22-year-old young man living on 17th, between 66th and 68th, also in the Havana municipality of Playa.
The pile of garbage grew so much that it knocked over the box with the telephone wires and now, in addition to the flies, we have been left without landline telephone and without being able to use Nauta Hogar’s internet connection
“The pile of garbage grew so much that it knocked over the box with the telephone lines and now, in addition to the flies, we have been left without landline telephone and without being able to use Nauta Hogar’s internet connection. It is sad,” he adds. “It’s no longer just the flies and bad smells, now it has also brought me problems with my work because I am a designer and I do everything online.”
More than five kilometers from Yantiel and Clara’s houses, the scene repeats itself. A group of European women were walking this Friday morning near the corner of Campanario and Laguna, in Centro Habana, a few meters from a mountain of garbage. The women left the retouched tourist perimeter and entered one of the poorest and dirtiest areas of Havana.
A few meters ahead, the huge garbage dump on the corner of Perseverancia and Laguna awaited the tourists, who stopped to take a couple of photos of a deteriorated art deco-style building with cracked balconies and a faded façade. A flower seller reached out to them to offer them “Cuban and top quality” sunflowers and tobacco.
“Look, I’ve seen filth in this city but never like this,” says another neighbor from nearby Lealtad. “The current situation has never been experienced here. This entire Lagunas street is a garbage dump, you can’t walk on the sidewalks, you can’t stand at the door because the plague is like a blow to the face.”
At the end of last October, the program coordinator of the capital government, Orestes Llanes Mestres, described the crisis in garbage collection as “the main challenge for the city at the moment.” In a meeting with several Havana authorities, the official announced that waste collection actions were going to be intensified with the support of companies from the Ministry of Construction and state and non-state micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
But the days go by and the collection efforts do not reach all the neighborhoods nor appease the spirits of the indignant Havana residents, harassed by a Doña Basura who reigns despotically, with her smells and her flies, everywhere.
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