Collapses a la carte / Fernando Dámaso

Photo: Peter Deel

The city of Havana is falling down rapidly. It is no secret. Every day, on average, at least one building collapses. In recent collapses people have been killed or injured. The authorities, when they have no remedy, because they occur in places too visible, report that the buildings were declared uninhabitable and the occupants refused to leave. The emphasis, after the occurrence of the disasters, is on rapid and efficient care offered by the medical services to the injured.

Of the dead there is little discussion, they are considered responsible for their misfortunes. Nor is it explained that the tenants refuse to leave their homes because they have nowhere to go, if it’s not one of the hundreds of dismal makeshift shelters where families are housed for decades, witnessing the births of their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, with no possibility of improvement.

Photo: Rebeca

As this is going on, hundreds of buildings are unoccupied and have been been looted throughout the city: lacking roofs, their plumbing fixtures, electrical equipment, doors, windows and, in many cases even the tiles or bricks, are taken by some citizens without other resources to repair their shattered homes, as they are unable to buy these materials in the market, due to their scarcity of because of their high prices.

Others, which were built to serve as housing but are assigned as offices to different government agencies and institutions, remain underutilized and untouchable, beyond the problem; restoring their to their original use, could relieve it.

Photo: Rebeca

The centralized agency created to address the repair and maintenance of buildings, with the decree of Urban Reform Law in 1959, never worked efficiently, and combining that with the prohibition against housing tenants repairing their own, the lack of materials, and the persecution of those working privately in their practice trades, brought about the current situation.

For over twenty years, the State has been overwhelmed in the construction of housing, either legally or illegally, by citizens. Plus that previously built by the State, of poor quality, and lacking maintenance or repairs, is now in a deplorable state . Alamar is one of the many negative examples.

Now, when after years of neglect, the housing situation is chaotic, the State ignores the problem it created and shifts the responsibility for maintenance and repair to the citizens, through the sale of materials (at high prices, many in convertible currency) and self-employment, which is a difficult task to perform, due to the miserly existing wages.

Photo: Peter Deel

Why do I bring up this issue? It turns out, in reading the official press, I find that in Venezuela there are detachments of Cuban construction workers, supporting, through the construction of homes, the government of that country in the Great Venezuela Housing Mission. An old proverb says lit streets, dark houses. To my knowledge, Caracas is not falling down. It might be better in reverse, to try to solve the old problem of housing in Cuba, promised and never fulfilled by the authorities.

February 8 2012