14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 22 April 2023 — More than a place with passengers, the Villanueva station, in Havana, looks like a refugee camp: people sitting on the floor, towels that in the early morning cover the bodies that lie in the corners, and the crying of babies who do not understand why they have been there for so many days. The fuel crisis has turned the country’s main transportation waiting room into a makeshift shelter.
After ten in the morning this Saturday, people milled around in front of the ticket office. The bus bound for the city of Sancti Spíritus was about to arrive, and it was hoped that it would have enough empty seats to take some passengers, who could barely breathe in the heavy and humid air. “Only ten passengers will be able to leave,” an employee announced.
“I’ve been here for three days,” says a woman who is waiting for a ticket to get to Holguín, a complicated journey due to the distance and the high demand for travel to the east of the country. “Here the most complicated thing, in addition to waiting, is the situation of the bathroom and getting something to eat. Even drinking a drop of water gets complicated: I can’t leave my place because I might miss my turn.”
Those who arrive as a family take turns going out to buy food, fan the children or inquire at the ticket office about the possibilities of boarding the next bus. On the outskirts, private trucks try to capitalize on the despair. At the door of one truck, in use for 70 years, the driver announces that he charges $83 per person to go to Sancti Spíritus, although the trip is no more than 224 miles.
Although Christmas is not approaching and Easter has passed, Villanueva experiences moments of the holiday hustle and bustle, when the desire to celebrate with family mobilizes thousands of Cubans to be transported to one side and the other of the Island. “If this is the case now, as Mother’s Day approaches, we will have to come with a fan,” predicts another traveler. In three weeks, on Sunday, May 14, every inch of ground at the waiting room could be occupied.
Translated by Regina Anavy