With the Traffic Lights Out and a ‘Swimming Pool’ Size Pothole, Disorder Takes Over the Streets of El Cerro in Havana

Small “waterfalls” have already formed inside the hole with the water flowing from the pipe and the neighbors foresee a disaster.

Images of a group of children bathing in the pothole-pool reached Cuban screens last month / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 May 2024 — “Until a misfortune occurs, the Government is not going to fix this,” predicts Marta, a neighbor who lives a few steps from the pothole-pool in the municipality of Cerro, in Havana. After several years of cutting the street in two, the hole has not only taken on monstrous proportions, but, since the last time this newspaper visited the neighborhood, it has absorbed more garbage, debris and water.

Its spine, a pipe that should have been fixed by the state company Aguas de La Habana weeks ago, remains broken. “They came to get a snack,” Marta mocks, alluding to the workers who, supposedly, would be in charge of covering the leak and restoring the pavement. However, it is easy to see that the pothole no longer requires a minor or partial solution, but rather a serious attack.

Marta sees “a misfortune” coming and she is right. The pothole is surrounded by two “traversable” parts: the fragment of street that was left next to it and a piece of sidewalk, which now serves as a bridge for anyone who wants to risk crossing. It is enough to see, the woman comments, how the structure warps when someone passes over it.

The structure surrounding the pothole warps when someone passes over the sidewalk / 14ymedio

“If someone falls in there and is unlucky enough to not know how to swim, they drown,” she says. The warning is not exaggerated. Inside the pothole, small “waterfalls” have already formed with the water flowing from the pipe. It doesn’t even need to rain for the hole to fill with the bluish liquid through which pieces of wood and “rafts” of dirt float.

The situation is unsustainable and although the families of the neighborhood have been living with the pothole for years, there are those who are thinking of protesting in a visible way against its presence. “More than once we have decided to throw stones into the puddle, until the Police come and set up ‘the nasty one’,” says Marta, tired of warning the neighborhood children not to get into the puddle.

The images of a group of children bathing in the pothole-pool reached the screens of Cubans, via Facebook, last month. It is better not to look at the rest of the street. Dusty, surrounded by trash piles, the passage that does not interrupt the gap is hindered by garbage. In April, when 14ymedio photographed the state of the place, the pothole had even grown pumpkin plants, with their corresponding fauna of mosquitoes, frogs and cockroaches.

The traffic lights from the corner of Calzada de Cerro and Tejas to Belascoaín are out / 14ymedio

Cerro, the municipality that – according to the saying – held “the key” to Havana and its viaducts, contains several of the worst streets in the capital. The disaster is not limited to the condition of the pavement, but also to traffic signals and traffic lights. A clear example is the set of “blackout” of the traffic lights from the corner of Calzada de Cerro and Tejas to Belascoaín.

Without a traffic officer to control it, the stretch is in absolute disarray. The cars zigzag in search of a clear path and their drivers no longer bother to look up for the red, green and yellow lights. With a summer that has just started and increasingly longer days of blackouts, the only light that can be used in Havana is that of the sun.


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