An Aristocratic House on Havana’s Calzada del Cerro Collapses and Leaves the Neighborhood Without Light

Despite the deterioration, something of its grandeur can still be appreciated.

The property, number 1360 Calzada del Cerro, suffered the collapse of part of its facade and the roof / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 June 2024 — The historic House of Doña Luz Godínez de Diago, marked thus on the maps, a 19th-century building in Havana, no longer exists as such. This Wednesday the property, number 1360 Calzada del Cerro, suffered the collapse of part of its facade and the roof. “It has been a relief, because that building had been in danger of collapse for years, and all of us who live nearby feared that it would end in tragedy,” a neighbor of the two-storey house tells 14ymedio. Demolition work has forced the cut-off of electrical service in the area.

“Yesterday we noticed that a bit of sand was falling, and shortly thereafter we heard the roar,” explains the woman standing in front of the house that once belonged to one of the families of the Havana aristocracy who sought refuge in the Cerro neighborhood, two centuries ago, to leave behind the intramural city, its noises and its miasmas. The house has gone through several uses in recent decades, from private to state.

“Yesterday we noticed that a bit of sand was falling, and shortly thereafter we heard the roar”

“No one lives at the front next to the facade, but behind there are several families,” the woman explains to this newspaper. This Wednesday, a demolition team, with a lift for two workers with sledgehammers to demolish the walls, was in front of the building located between Patria and Saravia streets. “They’re going to have to hurry because it looks like a tremendous downpour is coming,” said another nearby resident.

The huge debris from the collapse occupies part of the road that leads to the famous corner of Tejas, a commercial node also fallen out of favor, then continues to Monte Street and the Capitolio of Havana. The fragments of walls and columns have an impressive size. “Incredible that they haven’t crushed a car,” added a curious person who watched the operations behind the yellow tape that closes the road.

Despite the deterioration and the hole in the facade that reveals part of the property’s interior, something of its grandeur can still be appreciated. A large portal with stylized columns supports an upper floor of pointed arches, and a balcony extends the width of the entire house. Long ago it lost the ornate railing that allowed access to the terrace where you could enjoy the cool. Lower down, another arch with Mudejar inspiration still retains part of its beauty.

The house right next to number 1360, smaller and of neoclassical style, has its portal shored up with wooden beams and has suffered some damage after the collapse of part of the nearby house. On the street, a bush is mixed into the debris, dragged from a crack in which, for years, it had grown near the roof of the old mansion of the Godínez de Diago family.

In the neighborhood they have had to cut off the electrical service to carry out the demolition work due to the line’s proximity to the building facade. The blackout has especially bothered residents in an area of Havana that has been suffering from problems with the water supply for days. They were hoping they could fill their tanks and containers this afternoon, if service is restored. Without electricity, the motors that extract water from the cisterns can’t even be turned on.

The Calzada de Cerro, one of the most important roads in the Cuban capital, connects part of the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolución and Cerro with Central Havana and Old Havana. It is a traditional route for urban buses and collective taxis, especially those who make the journey between the Parc de la Fraternidad and the areas of La Lisa and Marianao. Its closure, this Wednesday, has forced traffic to be channeled through parallel streets, narrower and with very deteriorated asphalt.

The Calzada de Cerro is one of the avenues that has suffered the most over time, due to state neglect and lack of investment in recent decades. Without the attractions of the historic center of Havana or the more modern feel of El Vedado, the street has numerous tenements where overcrowding and improvised partitions have contributed to further deterioration of the infrastructure.

“No one lives at the front next to the facade, but behind there are several families”

What was once a street with spacious portals, an infinity of vibrant shops and a great social life where people liked to stroll has languished. It is now a route that many people in Havana avoid in the face of the danger of a balcony collapse, sewer water that accumulates on the corners and mountains of garbage piled up on side streets. A sense of insecurity has taken over the surroundings, especially at night time.

The intense rains of the last few days have caused dozens of building collapses in Havana, a death and several injuries. Last Friday an official source, who preferred anonymity, informed this newspaper that in the Cuban capital, heavy rainfall had caused 19 partial collapses, but in the following days the number continued to grow.

On Sunday night, one of the most emblematic buildings in the capital, the Edificio Manzanares, suffered an interior collapse. Around 9:20 pm, a patio collapsed, dragging in its path the entire lower area of bathrooms and kitchens, at number 912 of San Francisco Street, one of the entrances of the apartment complex.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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