The Decay of the Neighborhoods / Fernando Dámaso

I admire the City Historian for the work he has done and is doing, and for his dedication to beautification. And also his numerous collaborators. I believe that, together with some of the provincial historians, they are the only ones who have done a commendable job of preservation, although it should be noted that, for one reason or another, it has been concentrated in certain areas of the city and not in all of it. To demand this of the historians would be unfair.

The responsibility for maintaining and developing the cities and towns, in our case, belongs to the provincial and city governments responsible, particularly their presidents, a task previously assigned to the governors and mayors. With regards to the City of Havana outside the Historic Center, run by the Historian, the governments referred to have done and are doing very little. The neighborhoods are falling apart without measures that, at least, would halt the deterioration, and much that is being lost will be impossible to recover; we don’t see any plans or measures in effect to do that. The people, bound hand and foot by absurd prohibitions, see their old homes fall on themselves without be able to do anything to prevent it.

To take over all the urban property in 1959 was an easy task. It consisted of taking possession of what was built by others. It just lacked a law. To take responsibility for it was not done, although you can argue many reasons: laziness, the incapacity and inefficiency facing with the problems of maintenance and construction (centralized within the government and prohibited to citizens). These have been the principle cause of the deplorable state of housing and buildings, as well as the urban infrastructure.

This reality, well-known to all, languishes while waiting for better times, and many Cubans lament that, in their province or city, there is no historian like the one in Havana. Unknown to the majority of the people,only seen in political acts or natural disasters, disguised as military, the presidents of the governments occupy and then leave their posts, many times replaced, without punishments nor glories, like gray functionaries, without realizing material or spiritual work.

At the same time, at least in the City of Havana, the once thriving neighborhoods of Centro Habana, Cerro, Vedado, Víbora, Arroyo Naranjo, La Lisa, San Miguel del Padrón and others, decline day by day, losing their charm, and becoming unrecognizable to those who once lived in them. The long involution continues, with no sign of being able to be stopped or reversed under the current model.

January 11 2011