Builders of the World / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

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Cuba is falling apart. It’s been moving for a long time without advancing, like an old photo denied color. The architectural stock that was “built” after 1959 is insufficient and with generally ugly designs. However, the Cuban government sends builders to many parts of the globe to help in the construction and reconstruction process — is it trying to compete with the United States? — in different countries.

A long time ago in an architecture class of the program called University for All on Cuban television, I heard a professor say that80 percent of the buildings in Cuba had been built between 1902 and 1959. Eighty percent of Cuba was built in 57 years! What is the average built in the last 53? I was surprised at that comment and, above all, that it was made publicly. By the way, I have not seen more of that person in the national media, but I do not doubt that in this age in which there is an appearance of transparency and a certain tolerance, he may resurface.

The sloppy trail of 53 years of totalitarianism unfortunately makes up the sociopolitical and economic morphology of the archipelago and is reflected in almost every aspect of Cuban society. If we add our idiosyncrasies and the influence of the leader that was too long in charge of Cuba,the result is an explosive pattern overflowing our territory.

Too much time passed without building housing in our country as the needs of the population demanded, and the maintenance required by the existing housing was not provided. This society affected by the campaigns that have to be undertaken without questioning, as in a military camp, filled the republic with prefab boxes in five-floor residential buildings without elevators, which looked like they had been built with machetes. What numbers of architects and engineers have graduated from Cuban universities to spend their active work life reproducing typical projects?

Only the IMS* modules, of Yugoslavian construction — much taller and, therefore, with elevators — improved this city’s esthetics and the comfort of some families, but they are insufficient.

I don’t doubt that the pompousness and opportunism of our leaders, wanting to “fix the world”, will make them set their sights on the moon and, seeing the craters of the natural satellite, will send in solidarity a contingent of builders to fill the potholes. After all, they ruined the country a long time ago and sprucing up the celestial body will be a new project – a pretext that will gain them more time on the throne of incompetence, while Cuba full of cracks goes to pieces…

*Translator’s note: IMS Building Technology is a proprietary name for a building system developed in Yugoslavia using a precast prestressed concrete frame structure with concrete shear walls. The system is low-cost, allows accelerated construction, and withstands earthquakes and hurricanes.

September 19 2012