In the early morning they removed the first bricks from the exterior wall to sell—each one—at three pesos on the black market. Like an army of ants, the poorest people in the area took the old closed factory and began to dismantle it. On the corner some kids watched in case the police approached, while the parents sifted through the residue of the debris to extract the mortar. Deft hands knocked it down during the day and carried it away at night, these construction materials that would allow them to build their own homes. After three weeks, all that was left of the enormous building was the floor and some columns standing in a vacuum. Everything that could be used had been moved to the territory of needs, had gone to support the architecture of the emergency.
On an island where to acquire cement, blocks or steel is comparable to getting a bit of lunar dust, destroying in order to build has become common practice. There are specialists in extracting clay bricks intact after eighty years of being embedded in a wall, experts in peeling off the glazed tiles from a demolished mansion, and adroit “deconstructors” who extract the metal girders from the collapsed heaps. They use the reclaimed materials to build their own habitable spaces in a country where no one can buy, legally, a house. Their main “quarries” are those houses that have fallen down or workplaces abandoned for many years by the apathetic State. They fall on these with an efficiency in looting that one might want to see in the dozing bricklayers who work for wages.
Among these skilled recyclers, some have been killed by a collapsing roof or falling wall, riddled by too many holes in its base. But at times lady luck also smiles on them and they find a toilet without cracks, or an electric socket that, in their hurry, the owners of the demolished house couldn’t take with them. A few kilometers from the site of the looting a small dwelling of tin and zinc slowly begins to change. The tiled floor from a house that fell in at Neptuno and Aguila streets has been added, along with a piece of the exterior railing from an abandoned mansion on Linea Street, and even some stained glass from a convent in Old Havana. Inside this house, fruit of the pillaging, a family—equally plundered by life—dreams of the next factory that will be dismantled and loaded onto their shoulders.
The poem “Economic Plan” by Amaury Pacheco, read by the author.