14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 30 November 2023 — A flap of concrete and steel makes it difficult to exit through the door of the tenement located at 512 San Lázaro Street between Lealtad and Perseverancia, in Centro Habana. This Wednesday what everyone had been fearing for years happened: part of the upper balcony collapsed, leaving a trail of rubble and increasing the fear in which several families in the apartment building live. On a block where just remaining standing is an every day challenge for the buildings, residents know that the scene could be repeated in the surrounding homes.
The apathy, the salt air and the lack of resources of its residents have made this avenue, which connects Old Havana with the very steps of the University of Havana, an example of the already insurmountable architecture of the Cuban capital. Oblivious to the ongoing restoration of the historic center and somewhat far from the more modern neighborhood of El Vedado, the buildings on this artery that runs parallel to the sea are, clearly, unrecoverable.
“What we need here is a Caterpillar,” said a neighbor close to the collapse this Thursday. The man, over 70, considered that there are no “band-aids or warm cloths, this whole neighborhood has to be redone.” His reference to American heavy machinery is mainly due to “the steamroller that is needed to tear all this down,” a clear allusion to the re-foundation of San Leopoldo, the popular name of the area.
One balcony more or less seems like a small thing on a street on which only ruins remain, but this Wednesday’s collapse deeply marks the lives of the inhabitants of 512 San Lázaro
Although most of those who live in the neighborhood do not remember the pious saint who preferred to live as a poor person instead of enjoying his family wealth, it is enough to walk the streets that go from Belascoaín to Lealtad, crossing diagonally from San Lázaro to the nearby San Miguel, to realize that the residents of that grid have not chosen the misery that surrounds them, the unpainted walls, the long lines in the markets or, much less, the mountains of waste that cover every corner.
One balcony more or less seems like a small thing on a street on which only ruins remain, but this Wednesday’s collapse deeply marks the lives of the inhabitants of 512 San Lázaro. Probably, none of the residents of that lot will be able to sell their home to pay for emigration, or to exchange it for a better neighborhood even if it means paying money, let alone take a photo in front of the façade of their building or invite – with pride – some friends to a festive evening. Like so many homes around here, this one has been marked by ruin.
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