The Annoying Wait of the Luyano Residents

Mercedes Caballero with red handkerchief is part of the brigade March 13 that works in the reconstruction of the Otero area. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 18 April 2019 — Sitting at the entrance of his house, Yanisley Valdés blocks the sun on his face with his hand and does likewise and the swirls of dust that rise with the winds of Lent. Since the tornado of January 27 devastated his home, his days are reduced to a succession of negotiations that do not lead to anything. His roof is still waiting for demolition and his room is filled with the materials it has taken him months to obtain.

One of the reasons why the repairs in Luyanó incomprehensibly go on forever is the lack of materials, which seem to be lost at some point in the chain, according to one of the workers who is rebuilding the Otero site, in front of Valdés’ house.

“If you lack a nail, you have to stop. Right now we don’t have the electrical boxes to install, we do not have nails for the formwork, the other day it happened, the same as now, the supplies did not come. Finally we got what we needed five o’clock in the afternoon, almost when we were leaving, and we left at almost ten o’clock that night. That’s not right, I do not understand why those things happen, because onm paper there is everything. There is money for the materials, which in turn are in the warehouse, but here they are not arriving on time,” he explains.

Yanisley Valdés sat at the door of her house on Reyes y Mangos street in Luyanó. (14ymedio)

There, despite the shortcomings, the picture is different than in the home of Valdés. There are dozens of workers from the March 13th brigade who work from morning to night. Juan Antonio, one of the workers, says that he hopes that “by February or March of next year” all the works in the Otero neighborhood will be finished and together they can celebrate “the happiness of delivering everything new and with quality.”

The residents are happy with their work, although, again, the sticking point is the tools. “They arrived here the first week after the tornado and the truth is that they have tremendous willingness to work,” one of the residents tells this newspaper while serving lunch to the workers.

“Here the problem is that there is a lack of materials and that is why it doesn’t go any further, they are stopped right now because supplies have not come in. I stay at my son’s house, I come every morning to help and I stay until late. The buses are wearing me out, but this is my home and I want it fixed soon,” says Mercedes Caballero, one of those affected by the tornado, tells 14ymedio. She has not missed a single step of what it takes to build a new roof on your home.

Mercedes Caballero at the entrance of her house next to one of the workers. (14ymedio)

Yanisley Valdés, on the other hand, has so far barely been able to buy a water tank, rebar, stone and cement. To prevent the roof from coming down, the interior of the house has been propped up, but the brigade that has to demolish the roof still doesn’t come. In her case, the slowness of the bureaucracy has been the first obstacle she has had to face. And it continues.

Four days after the tornado, Valdés went to the office to start the procedures and recover her house, but she had to wait two months for a technician to measure the house and obtain the document for the purchase of the materials.

The waiting did not end there. “I was told the site, very close to here, but there was no truck and they sent me to Alma’s site, which is very far away. Thursday I went because they told me there was concrete, but when I got there, I had to sign in first. I was ready but the person responsible for carrying it out was not in. I got up on Friday, I arrived at about five in the morning, and there were so many people in front of me, I got number 49.”

So that day she didn’t achieve her goal either. The authorities at the supply site told her not to wait, because in one day they only dispatch five people. Valdés has taken five days to get some of the materials, but others that she needs are still missing. She paid for everything in cash, without credits or subsidies, although she did get the reduction of 50% authorized by the Government to deal with the construction crisis derived from the tornado.

Otero under construction. (14ymedio)

“Here I am, still waiting for the demolition, they told me they were going to send a brigade to demolish the second floor that is falling in, but ’you have to wait, now there is no brigade’, ’they are all working, you have to wait’. That’s the only thing they can say every time. I’m going to protest,” he complains.

While she spends his days here and there, she lives in the house of her ex-husband and father of the youngest of her two children. “That’s in Lawton, every day I have to get up at six in the morning to take my kids to school, then sit here, and in the end I lose the whole day.”

In addition, Valdés complains that she is not treated well when she goes to the offices or has received confusing information. “At one point, they told me that for the houses with property there is no brigade available, but another told me that there is and that I have to wait.”

Some materials that Yanisley Valdés has not been able to keep in his house are in the middle of the street like those sacks of stone. (14ymedio)

However, what angers her the most is that she has not been given a shelter while the situation of her house is resolved. “The lack of respect is very great, I am a woman with two children, they have not offered me shelter, I can not cook here, I have everything in sacks, I can not even walk,” he says.

“All the work that I’m going through and it turns out that I also have to come and hear lies. Diaz-Canel said clearly on television that everyone will have their situation resolved and that women with children are a priority, the question is when and how will it be. They have not explained to me, I’m going to wear out my shoes from so much going from one office to another, there’s a big mess, they work as they please.”

According to the latest official figures, released in March, of 7,923 homes affected, 2,480 have been totally resolved. The President of the Government of Havana, Reynaldo García Zapata, affirmed that all resources for reconstruction are assured and that 90% of the victims have already purchased the resources they need. But those who don’t appear in the statistics still see the open sky from their homes.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.