14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 May 2022 — The corner of Galiano and San Lázaro has been left out of the “magic ring.” Too far from the Cathedral of Havana and the Plaza de la Revolución, this point of the Cuban capital has not received the benefits of the restoration of the historic center or the care given to the circle around the Council of State. But its orphanhood in the face of maintenance does not keep it from being one of the busiest places in the city
Every day thousands of pedestrians and vehicles pass through the area of that corner. At least three jeepney routes cross the intersection where a collapsing building stands. Like a Titanic mortally wounded, not by an iceberg but by the decades without repairing its interior and without even painting its façade, the building has become a mortal danger for those who inhabit it or pass by its location.
It’s just one of many dangers in a deadly city where cracked balconies, deep potholes and leaking gas pipes are claiming more and more lives. Opposite, just on a diagonal, the Deauville hotel shines with its blue façade with large balconies that makes it stand out on the Havana coastline. But although only a few yards separate them, the distance between both structures is an abyss: while one is designed for tourists to enjoy the benefits of a trip to the tropics, the other is the trap in which several families live.
The clothes appear on the clotheslines, there is a red shirt and a blue sheet that don’t even move because on this Tuesday there is hardly any breeze in Havana. The apartment on the same corner looks like a mouth with its front teeth knocked out. The upper part is in that magical balance that supports a good part of the city. No one knows how it is still standing, although most of those who walk by hardly notice the danger that hangs over their heads.
“Here we have experienced several building collapses,” a local resident tells this newspaper. Families rearrange themselves and locate other spaces within the building itself or go to a relative’s house, but the rest of the residents refuse to leave the building. They are reluctant to leave their accommodation because “this is bad, but there is no other option than a collective shelter” where you can live for decades in a city marked by a housing shortage. The other possibility is to rebuild the property, on the same site, but that is unlikely to happen.
The corner of Galiano and San Lázaro did not have the fate of restoration or privilege, but all eyes are on it. A landslide in that place, which forces its inhabitants to be permanently removed to another place, would free up a succulent piece of the real estate pie. Now it is a danger for those who pass by, but tomorrow it could be the expensive land for another López-Calleja tower, as Havanans call the enormous hotel under construction in the El Vedado neighborhood.
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