14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 January 2023 — Odalys remembers that day very well. “People began to come out from everywhere, headed for the park,” she evokes a year and a half after the July 11, 2021 popular protest in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, ignited the spark for the historic demonstrations that shook Cuba. Since that time, the reasons for the residents of the municipality to “take to the streets” remain intact: lack of liberties, inflation, blackouts and garbage accumulated on every corner.
“Look at that park for children, it’s pure rust,” the woman describes to 14ymedio. The destroyed sidewalk, the ravaged grass and three rickety swings make up the desolate panorama. Around the merry-go-round, bags of waste accumulate and a little further on, a mountain of rubbish borders the bridge over one of the tributaries of the Ariguanabo River. “Here you cannot live, we continue in the same situation.”
“The blackouts have already started again and they last up to six hours,” stresses the woman, who remembers going out “banging on a can with a spoon,” on that 11th of July to show her discomfort at the poor conditions of the small city. A city that was once an important agricultural center, a transport node between Havana and the southwest, as well as a frequent venue for humor festivals and cultural events. The International Film School, also undermined in resources and importance, continues to operate in the area.
Unlike that Sunday in July, now the streets are only used by those who are on their way to work or school, those who are anxiously looking for some food and those who are heading towards an office to request a passport that allows them to travel outside Island. The cries of “Freedom!” have been replaced by the demands of a neighbor who urges another to arrive on time and line up for soap or frozen chicken. The trials against the protesters of that day have spread fear, just as waste of all kinds is spread throughout the city, without the Community Services trucks picking it up.
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