Scorched earth


Havana was already under a hurricane warning when I returned on Sunday after a tour of Pinar del Río.  Rarely has it given me so much pleasure to see the elevated bridges of 100th Street and Boyeros than after seeing the procession of structures destroyed in the west.  On both sides of the highway one could see the place where winds exceeding 200 kilometers per hour passed, just in the area between Los Palacios and San Diego.  The dry vegetation, doubled over in the direction of the strongest winds, and the hundreds of houses without roofs, or blown down.  Even the resistant marabou weed suffered more under the hurricane than with all the well-publicized plans to eliminate it.

People mourned their fate, with their houses blown down and their childhood photos destroyed by water.  A bicycle-taxi driver sent his daughters to the home of an aunt because he didn’t have the 9.70 pesos it cost for each piece of asbestos cement roofing distributed to the victims.  Desolation and doubt before a future that already had the tone of shadows but now is painted, rightly, in the worst shade of ochre.  Crops on the ground with no insurance company responsible for them.  Electrical appliances purchased in the informal market that cannot even be declared lost, because to the State they never existed.

The helplessness of the citizen before these catastrophes of weather is crushing.  One hammer costs practically a month’s salary, and having boards and nails is such a luxury that they can use only a few.  Only one option is left when a cyclone comes: Evacuate and leave the larger belongings to the mercy of the storm.  The most difficult process for those we want to help is the absence of a civic route for sending donations to the victims.  The State distribution structure cannot overcome the indolence and poor organization it demonstrates in other economic activities.  Many choose to work through churches, but they lack the infrastructure and personnel to reach everywhere.

Yesterday evening, Sunday, we talked with the members of the Convivencia [Coexistence] team and other members of the nascent civil society in Pinar del Río about how to bring clothing, food and medicine to the victims.  Unfortunately, all the options have been dismantled over the years in which we Cuban citizens have lost our autonomy before an overprotective and authoritarian State.  If a group of people could gather aid, the problem would be transporting it to the disaster zones and distributing it without being denounced and in the end arrested.  Thus, the most viable initiative is for family members abroad to send cash to their relatives in Cuba.  For those of us who live on the Island and want to lend a hand, we must take it in person to the devastated areas and deliver our donations directly.  “Anything helps,” a gentleman sobbing with sadness told me, while showing me his house, poverty-stricken before the cyclone and now blown down.










  1. I’m very sad to see the destruction in your country. And now Hurricane Ike is passing over Cuba. Our prayers are with you. Is there anything else we can do?

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  2. Good photos. I’m surprised to see a truckload of asbestos based roofing shingles–they are no longer used in the U.S.A. because of their health hazard.

    Buen photos. Me da suprisa ver una troca lleno de material de tejos que contiene el peligroso material asbestos–no permitan eso in los EUA–polvo de esta material es venenoso.

    John Bibb

  3. What is really devastating is what you mention as “lack of civic sense”.It is true that in our western societies, civil society , can act in accordance or in antithesis to the state,but in any way, it can act.Though the “protective state” is a spectrum that still revives in our difficult times, i too believe that your poor civic structures should and must be enforced.Only civic forces can act as catalyst in procedures of change.
    I was really sad to see your photos from places that i was lucky to see.
    May your inner strengh help you to come through this terrible disaster.

  4. This is horrible. This Cuban leader does not fool anyone . I am sure there are more dead than reported. The Cuban Government should be a shamed of themselves. As well the Venezuelan government for not helping as they have alot of oil money….

  5. Hey, Yoani, espero que estes bien y tu familia. Ya paso el hurican. I heard that Havana took a tough shot and that many of the older buildings se cayo. I hope your home is ok.

    At any rate, it looks like New Orleans will be spared this time, but the Gulf Coast is still going to get whacked from this one. May God Bless us all.

  6. los cubano fidel los tiene de esclavo======no le importa si el pueblo cubano se muere ===los tiene 50 anos muerto de hambre= ====comiendo las migaja que le vende========pero los estado unido son los malo==============pero quier que le den credito======que solo pida a e.u======o russia=======chavez ayuda a tu papa ===== para que venezuela se buerva cuba=========

  7. I don’t intend to be rude but cubans should write in english for the benefit of all. There is a section for the spanish speaking folks, there is another page.

  8. Es triste ver lo que un huracan puede hacer a una ciudad o a un pueblo en pocas horas, pero mas tristes es lo que puede hacer un hombre con ideas torpez, yo soy cubano, y creo que el huracan Iky ha estado muchos anos presente en cuba. Fidel pide creditos a las companias americanas, pero se le podra dar credito a alguien que tiene un largo credito de no pagar sus deudas.
    Se habla mal del capitalismo, pero las companias de este pais y los trabajadores independiente es lo que hacen al capitalismo, la libre empresa , compra y venta. si odiamos al capitalismo tambien odiamos a la gentes que lo forman.
    Que hipocrita es de aquel que habla mal del capitalismo y ahora quiere credito del sistema.
    Hoy empiezo una reflexiones sobre sus reflexiones.

    Its Sad to see what an hurracan can do for a country and a town, but its even sadness what a mad men can do with a lot Lacking in intelligence, Im cuban and i belive the hurracan Ike have been present in cuba for many years. Fidel Castro as for american company give him credits, but the question to ask, its can you give credit to someone that is very popular in not paying his bills.
    They speak bad about the capitalism system, but the companys and the self emploee, the people that is what make the capitalism, free market sell n a buy, if we hate the capitalism we also hate the people who its part of it.
    What a Hypocrisy of his part to talk bad about the system and now he is askin credit from the capitalism system “american companies”
    Today i will start a reflexions about his reflexions.

    Please let no be an hebetudinous

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *