Touring Havana / Regina Coyula

Former commercial establishment converted into a dwelling and today re-converted into a dwelling-business. On San Rafael Boulevard.

I went with my brother the architect who needed to exchange a toilet. It was hard because the green ones were not to be found, and my brother refused to put a white toilet in a bathroom where even the bathtub is green. We had to “tour Havana”; his expert eye and my critical one were taking note of the urban follies that people have committed to open a small business. No one guided them. They demand a health license but with a simple permit they disfigure the facade or put up a hideous poster, paint at whim without taking into account the upper floor or the dwelling next door; and without telling anyone they block the facades and invade the flowerbeds. Those striking posters and the brand new paint contrast with the local businesses in State hands that languish in the middle of the filth and abandon. Both extremes deface the environment a little more.

With that lack of urgency with which the “process of modernization of our economic model” is undertaken, one supposes that it is because the steps have been planned minutely. So, after so much thinking, why didn’t any civil servant come up with a better idea than that each person would open his little business according to his own possibilities and often without conditions, while the cafeterias and stores built to such ends are the living picture of underdevelopment. The shops are still as ugly as before, and they put up makeshift structures to sell food or cheap goods.

I argued this to my brother who in one of his witticisms told me:

“Well, as long as you keep taking Thinkathon, that pill that makes you see reason, I’m kicking you out of the car.”

At the edge of the family joke which has become “I’m kicking you out of the car,” are now revealed some words of President Raul Castro calling for urban legislation. Like almost everything in Cuba, the problems grow and grow without the responsible authorities taking action or being respected, and it isn’t until the highest leadership speaks out that, as if by magic, everyone takes notes and clutches their heads not knowing where to start.

May 23 2012