The Sea Returns Havana’s Garbage and More to the Malecon

When the sea withdraws, a whole layer of filth covers the nearest streets / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 30 March 2024 — “What comes from the sea, returns to the sea,” is a maxim that the residents of San Leopoldo, a Havana neighborhood bordering the Malecón, know very well. It’s a low zone in this area of the Cuban capital where there are frequent coastal floods. The sewers, in addition to draining the water, bring into homes the odor of saltwater mixed with trash, and the wastewater carries crabs that are skinny and pale, a result of a contaminated coastline that has few natural nutrients.

Almost a hundred years ago, after the construction of the wall where so many habaneros go to refresh themselves at night, the rocks were covered and the waves diverted. Areas that were filled in until the end of the 19th century were pure coastline. A good part of those areas snatched from the sea are once again under its control when storms and hurricanes hit the Cuban capital. The water rises in a few hours, floods Maceo Park and rushes through the streets of Lealtad, Escobar, Perseverancia and Reina into Belascoaín. Nothing can stop it.

With the penetrations of the sea comes the floating garbage that used to rest on the asphalt. It navigates the pieces of wood, circumvents the plastic bottles and sends the plastic bags with remnants of food and dirt sailing from the corners. The garbage containers are converted into ships, dirty and cracked gondolas that go where the waters carry them. But the waste that people have been throwing off the other side of the wall also returns.

The water rises in a few hours, flooding Maceo Park and rushes through the streets of Lealtad, Escobar, Perseverancia  covering Belascoaín street  

When the sea withdraws, a whole layer of filth covers the nearest streets. Most of the rubbish is concentrated In front of the Malecón wall, in the area from Gervasio to Galiano. Algae that is drying, all kinds of plastic, beer cans where the brands are no longer distinguishable, children’s flip-flops that the waves had taken away, and some inflated and pestilent bags that no one dares to even look at for fear of what they have inside.

Since last weekend’s storm, the sea brought back everything under the sun to the residents of San Leopoldo, along with the garbage that it removed from the street, which had been accumulating for weeks without the Communals Company coming to pick it up. It is as if nature were returning the offal to them and, by the way, clarifying to them that a city’s trash always returns to its streets, no matter how much the wall protects them.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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