Havana is a city of slow solutions or incredibly precipitous ones. In the case of a deteriorating building, where the inhabitants live among the scaffolding with pieces of the ceiling falling in, the remedies take time and the necessary housing takes decades to construct.
But if the question is to close, to limit or to prohibit, resources crop up with surprising speed and the solutions arrive “today for tomorrow.” Following this logic, the residents of Central Havana discovered one day that our Maceo Park had grown a wall, covered in Jaimanita* stone, which preserves the wall and protects us.
The hundreds of sacks of cement that were wasted to create such a barrier might well have been used building houses for the residents of the famous Romeo and Juliet solar* located at Belascoaín and Concordia, which finally collapsed just a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the statue of the Bronze Titan now dozes in the park far from the cries of the children, beyond the couples who “squeeze” in the dark, and away from the drunk sleeping it off on a bench. The protagonists of the tragedy of collapse spend the night in doorways, shelter themselves in the farmer’s market or assemble other tents, always under the eyes of the police, who for the last two weeks have closed the street from Neptune to San Lázaro.
Entangled in a drama that exceeds that of the Montegues and the Capulets, residents of the collapsed solar realize that their future is being decided higher up. The possibilities of changing the future – of shared shelters and promises of microbrigades* – that they already glimpse for themselves, are minimal. Their fate, like that of Shakespeare’s tragedians, are already written in the stamp of the housing institute and the false ink of a bureaucracy that does not generate happy outcomes.
Jaimanita = A local limestone used for high quality construction, including on many of Havana’s most elegant older buildings.
Solar = A type of single room occupancy housing with shared bathrooms, that can vary from adjoining shacks to an old mansion broken up into single room dwellings. Whole families may live in one room. The closest English word is probably “tenement.”
Microbrigades = See the notes for August 24th.