The Sewers of Surgidero / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The sewage of Surgidero de Batabanó (14ymedio)
The sewage of Surgidero de Batabanó (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 2 April 2015 — “Here the earth sinks to enter the sea,” says a tanned Peasant, whose face is like a map of bays and marches. On the south coast of Mayabeque, there is a piece of land that wants to transcend its fate as a low area and where every year the waters gain a bit in the battle for firm land. Despite its slow disappearance under the tide, Surgidero de Batabanó is also a site appreciated for its abundance of shrimp, lobster and sponges.

“This town has the cheapest seafood in the whole western region,” boasts a man who claims to have a degree in the technical exploitation of maritime transport, in the far off Soviet Union. His degree is from those years when the USSR welcomed Cuban students to its universities to develop an army of builders of the future. Now, the man and his family build illegal cages to hunt crustaceans and sell them on the black market.

On both sides of Surgidero’s main street there is an open channel that flows with sewage toward the muddy Gulf of Batabanó. There everything is all mixed together: salt and filth, foam and debris. As the area is barely fifteen feet above the level of the sea, the ditches that pass in front of the houses are always full and floating on the surface is everything that fails to flow along the weak slope.

Any cynical editor of tourist postcards could draw a parallel with Venice, but the neighbors believe it would be better to build a sewer

Any cynical editor of tourists postcards could draw parallels with Venice, but the neighbors believe it would be better to build a sewer. Each house has its own bridge to cross the stinking gutter, but when it rains it all overflows and there are days when the sewage, instead of flowing, seems to grow, reaching out to the living room of every home.

The inhabitants of the village have never gotten used to this situation, dating from when the streets were laid out and they were promised the drainage ditch would be temporary. Quite the contrary, the issue is no longer raised at meetings of the People’s Power and many are the unanswered letters describing the issue. They expose the dangers to health, landscape and tourists and even the shame of the villagers who don’t know how to explain such a stench to their visitors.

“These waters will end up swallowing us one day,” predicts a neighbor, who has seen how the sea and apathy will win the match against Surgidero de Batabanó.