Injured Urbanity

The building numbered 216 let out a sharp crack seconds before the walls separated and the roof collapsed. The walls fell at an hour in the early morning when no one was on the sidewalk. The dust floated up for several days and stuck to the clothes of the curious who came to see and to take some bricks from the pile of beams, wood and tiles. The rooming house next door didn’t suffer too much damage and the neighbors took advantage of the collapse because it left a wall free where they could open new windows. A year later, where the two-story building had collapsed, the trash of the whole neighborhood accumulated and passers-by urinated in the recesses formed by the columns.

The residents went to the shelter known as Venus, which is a few blocks from the central train station. They arrived there hoping theirs would be a short stay among the partitions and sheets hung up to form walls. They’ve spent more than 20 years, however, in the damp rooms full of bunk beds. Their children have grown up there, fallen in love, and procreated, while sharing the collective bathroom and the kitchen with the walls blackened by soot.

At first they believed they had relocated to a better place, but the hurricanes and deterioration have damaged the housing stock and every year thousands of people are added the list of victims. Over time, they’ve forgotten the sensation of opening the door to their own home, taking off their clothes in a room without thinking about the dozens of curious eyes watching, of taking a shower without someone pounding on the door desperately demanding their turn. They have forgotten how to live outside the shelter.


20 thoughts on “Injured Urbanity

  1. CASTRO and the ruling GOVERNMENT in CUBA CAN NOT BE TRUSTED. They exist cause of the “MENTIRA”…

  2. One of the main reasons that many residential buildings are falling down in Cuba is due to the fact that many mezzanines (barbacoas) are being built in the the middle of the double height spaces of the old colonial and other high ceiling buildings. When you add that extra weight and the movement against all those unreinforced walls you have a recepie for disaster! AND of course you cannot forget, THE WEATHER, THE SEA/SALT AIR AND THE CASTROFACIST NEGLECT! I WEEP FOR THE PEOPLE AND THE ARCHITECTURE!

    Havana, Cuba 1930s


    AFP: US open to admitting some Cuban political prisoners
    WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday it is open to the idea of admitting some of the freed Cuban political prisoners who went to Spain, but has received no formal requests do so.

    “Some that have made the trip from Cuba to Spain have inquired about coming to the United States,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “We will evaluate those cases… on a case-by-case basis.”

    He added that while some have made inquiries, he was not aware that any had made a formal request to live in the United States.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke over the telephone on Saturday with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos about the freed dissidents, both sides said.

    In a deal struck between the Roman Catholic Church and the government of Cuban President Raul Castro that was brokered by Spain, Cuba agreed to free 52 of 75 dissidents sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of up to 28 years.

    Twenty dissidents arrived in Spain last month, and six this week in the latest batch whose release was announced by the church on August 13.

    Havana agreed to free the dissidents within a period of four months after hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death in Cuba.

    Meanwhile, Crowley said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has arrived in Cuba as part of a trade mission for his home state but also to discuss the case of an American contractor who has been detained there for nine months.

    “We did have a conversation with him (Richardson) last week, brought him up to date on the status of the case of Alan Gross and asked if he would raise it during his discussions with Cuban officials this week,” Crowley said.

    Gross was arrested December 5, reportedly while distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment.

    Gross worked for an NGO contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications material to civil society groups on the island, according to the United States which seeks his release.

    Cuba insists however he is a spy who had sophisticated communications equipment for dissidents in the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime.

    Both the US government and the US company that employed the contractor, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), denied the espionage charges.

  4. TOUTUBE- Univision- Reina Luisa Tamayo logra marchar por las calles de Banes
    (Spanish langugage channel UNIVISION- Reina Luisa Tamayo, succeeds in marching thru the street of her town Banes)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Amnesty: Cuba harassing dead hunger striker’s mom-By WILL WEISSERT

    HAVANA — Amnesty International is calling on Cuban authorities to stop disrupting weekly marches by the mother of a political prisoner who died following a lengthy hunger strike.
    The London-based human rights group said in a statement Tuesday that officials should “end the harassment” of Reina Luisa Tamayo, who takes to the streets each Sunday with a small group of relatives to honor her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died Feb. 23 after refusing food and water for months.

    TOUTUBE- Univision- Reina Luisa Tamayo logra marchar por las calles de Banes


    Where are the harassing bullies now? Part #2 – uploaded by Yoani Sanchez

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Cuba: Mother harassed for marching for dead son: Reina Luisa Tamayo-The mother of a Cuban prisoner of conscience who died after hunger striking has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated in an attempt to stop her from organizing marches to commemorate her son’s death. The next march is planned for 15 August.

  6. CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY: Church in Cuba responds to open letter from dissidents

    Havana, Cuba- Aug 23.- The Archdiocese of Havana issued a press release on August 20 in response to an open letter recently sent to Pope Benedict XVI by a group of Cuban dissidents. The archdiocese said its statement was in response to the uproar among Catholics concerning the letter, “which contains offensive content toward the Church in Cuba.”

    The letter

    The open letter from the dissidents was signed by 165 people, many of whom are Catholic and have been involved in the Varela Project. Many are also family members of the prisoners who “desperately want” the regime to disappear.

    The dissidents stated that they are not in agreement with “the position the Cuban Church hierarchy has taken in its intervention in support of political prisoners,” which they call “unfortunate and embarrassing.” They believe that if the bishops had offered the “right mediation,” they would have listened to “the complaints of both sides” and would have reconciled them

    “However,” they continued, “the solution of exile, accepted by those who have been unjustly imprisoned for seven years only because of their ideas, only benefits the dictatorship,” as this “exodus” prevents them from continuing in their struggle for democracy in Cuba.

    The response from the archdiocese

    The press release from the Archdiocese of Havana pointed out that when the Church “accepted the mission of mediating between the family members of the prisoners … and Cuban officials, it knew that this mediation could be interpreted in different ways, provoking various reactions: from insults to defamation, to acceptance and even gratitude. Remaining inactive was not a valid option for the Church because of her pastoral mission,” the statement said.

    The archdiocese also noted that “the Church’s actions supporting respect for the dignity of all Cubans and for social harmony in Cuba has been ongoing for 20 years” and “has never and will never be based on political tendencies, whether of the government or of the opposition, but rather on her pastoral mission.”

    The statement also indicated that “the Church in Cuba will not divert her attention from that which motivated her to act in this process: the humanitarian complaint from families who have suffered from the incarceration of one or more of their members.”

    Demonstrating the Pope’s awareness of the situation, the archdiocese quoted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who recently remarked that the crucial role assumed in the Cuban dialogue process by Cardinal Jaime Ortega and by Archbishop Dionisio Garcia, the president of the bishops’ conference, was possible because of the evident fact that the Catholic Church is profoundly rooted in the nation’s people and is interpreted in the light of their spirit and their expectations.

    The statement continued citing Fr. Lombardi, who said that the Church in Cuba “is not a strange reality, she does not escape in difficult times. She bears the sufferings and brings hope, with dignity and patience, … but without trying to increase tensions or exacerbate feelings.”

    She does this, he added, “with the constant commitment to opening paths to understanding and dialogue.”

    The archdiocese concluded its statement again quoting Fr. Lombardi, who said the Holy See “supports the local Church with its spiritual solidarity and international authority,” and that “the Holy See has always declared itself against the embargo, and thus is united with the people in their suffering.”

    The spokesman then spoke of the Church’s willingness “to support any perspective on constructive dialogue … with patience, important progress has been made in this direction. We all want it to continue.”

  7. TIME MAGAZINE: Will the White House Fight to End the Cuba Travel Ban?- By Tim Padgett – Monday, Aug. 23, 2010

    MIAMI- After it looked a couple of months ago as if a bill lifting the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba had the momentum to pass Congress, it now appears stalled in the House of Representatives. The bill, which would also make food sales to Cuba easier, cleared the House Agriculture Committee but still needs a vote in two other committees — Financial Services and Foreign Affairs — and it may not even come up for a full vote this year. So as reports surface that the Obama Administration plans on its own to expand legal travel opportunities to Cuba, the question is whether such a move will spur or spoil the House bill — whose passage would mark the biggest shift in U.S. Cuba policy since a trade embargo was issued against the communist island in 1962.

    President Obama, according to Administration and congressional sources, intends before the year is out to loosen restrictions on visits to Cuba by U.S. students, entertainers and other goodwill ambassadors. Backers of increased American engagement with Cuba applaud the proposal, which is part of the President’s executive prerogative under the embargo. In reality, the action would simply be taking U.S. policy back to the Clinton Administration, before former President George W. Bush all but froze that kind of people-to-people contact with Cuba. But it’s less clear if Obama intends his new regulations to be a signal of support for eliminating the entire travel ban — which only Congress can do — or an unspoken message that this is as far as he wants to take the battle against the embargo’s dogged supporters on Capitol Hill. (See pictures of the sad decline of Cuba’s salsa scene.)

    The bill’s bipartisan backers, not surprisingly, see it as the former. House staffers say the White House Cuba regulations will be a shot in the arm for the broader travel legislation when Congress returns from its recess next month. Embargo foes agree. “This is the Administration essentially saying, ‘We’ve done what we can, and now we want Congress to take the larger step,'” says Jake Colvin, vice president for global trade issues at the independent National Foreign Trade Council in Washington, D.C. “This bill still has a lot of hurdles, but this implicit White House support gives it momentum again.”

    Echoing the optimism is Patrick Kilbride, senior director for the Americas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The organization represents a sizable bloc of farmers and businesspeople, many of them Republican-aligned, who want the Cuba embargo scrapped so they can reap the $1 billion in annual sales to the island that a recent Texas A&M University study says they’re losing out on. “We think these new [travel] steps are a very positive signal that the [Administration] would like to move forward” to lift the full travel ban, says Kilbride. He also confirms that the chamber is considering scoring the votes of Representatives and Senators if and when the bill finally hits their floors.

    The House bill seems slowed at this point by more serious opposition from the chamber’s pro-embargo forces and especially the pro-embargo lobby, led by the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, a major contributor to congressional campaigns. The Senate version, which deals only with the travel ban, has yet to get a Foreign Relations Committee vote and most likely faces a filibuster from pro-embargo Senators if it can ever get to the full chamber. (See pictures of Fidel Castro’s years in power.)

    But another reason to be confident, says Colvin, is that “this is the best diplomatic environment we’ve seen in a long time” for dismantling the embargo. That’s because last month, Cuban President Raúl Castro, after a dissident hunger striker died earlier this year, released 52 political prisoners who were locked up in 2003 by his elder brother, then President Fidel Castro (who ceded power to Raúl in 2006 due to ill health). Obama last year had left the ball in Havana’s court when he reversed his predecessor’s policy and let Cuban Americans travel and send remittances more freely to Cuba. Raúl’s prisoner release, say diplomats, now makes the next move Obama’s, and many see his new travel regulations as part of that. But it’s doubtful the Castros will feel international pressure to reciprocate, with further democratic or economic openings in Cuba, unless the travel ban that’s been in place since 1963 is eradicated. (Comment on this story.)

    Proponents of doing just that insist there’s more consensus than ever in the U.S. to ditch the Cuba embargo and its travel ban, which, after almost 50 years, have utterly failed to dislodge the Castro regime. Opening Cuba to Americans, they believe, will do more to stimulate democratization there than isolating it has. Even a majority of Cuban Americans now agree.

    Still, for all the good vibes the bill’s backers feel from the White House right now, some note warily that Obama has been loath to spend political capital in Cuba, or the rest of Latin America for that matter. Critics, for example, point to his decision last year to stop applying pressure against coup leaders in Honduras, who’d ousted a leftist President, when conservative Republicans in Congress objected.

    Embargo supporters, including Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat, are already blasting Obama’s plans to relax Cuba travel. “This is not the time to ease the pressure on the Castro regime,” Menendez said this month, insisting it will only give the brothers “a much needed infusion of dollars that will only extend their reign of oppression.” As a result, says one congressional aide who asked not to be identified, when it comes time for the White House to give the bill more full-throated support, “there’s a fear they may just decide that the fight’s not worth it.”

    But Democratic Congressman Howard Berman of California, a co-sponsor of the bill, says tearing down the travel ban is about more than Cuban rights — it’s also about the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to travel freely abroad. “Letting U.S. citizens travel to Cuba is not a gift to the Castros — it is in the interest of our own citizens,” Berman said after the House committee vote this summer. “It’s time to trust our own people and restore their right to travel.” It’s the sort of argument Obama usually agrees with. But now he may need to show how strongly he concurs when Congress returns next month.,8599,2012476,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopularemail

  8. @alsdally – Well said, spot-on. My first impression of Central Havana (and most everywhere else) was, “They have no pride, and it seems that they have no incentive to have pride.” The propaganda only goes so far, and it seems, not as far as a can of paint.


    YOUTUBE: La mesa redonda que no salio en Cuba
    Este es un video que nos mandara un espia que tenemos dentro de la mesa redonda, el mismo fue editado y dejado fuera de la transmision por el equipo del perro Randy si-si Alonzo

    Fearless Leader is a fictional character and the principal antagonist in the 1959-1964 animated television series Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, both shows often collectively referred to as Rocky and Bullwinkle. He is voiced by Bill Scott.

  10. During the last 50 years the construction of new houses has been dismal. The regime statistics in the construction of new houses are cooked. This suspicion is validated by Former Vice-Minister Carlos Lage who near the beginning of 2009 revealed that less than half of the 111,300 housing units claimed built in 2006 were in fact built. Beside the 2002 census data show that of the new housing units built between 1990 and 2002, close to 50,000 were bohíos and adobe structures (primitive dwellings with palm bark or adobe walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs). Those can’t be classify as adequate housing.


    Hoy Reyna Tamayo y los que la acompañaron pudieron ir a misa y al cementerio, presencia en Banes de Reuter, CNN y Telesur about 9 hours ago via txt

    (Today Reyna Tamayo and those who accompany her could go to mass and to the cementery, precense in Banes of Reuters, CNN & Telesur)

  12. ¿Y la tropa de choque? – YOUTUBE uploaded by Yoani Sanchez
    (Where are the harassing bullies now?)


    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Cuba: Mother harassed for marching for dead son: Reina Luisa Tamayo-The mother of a Cuban prisoner of conscience who died after hunger striking has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated in an attempt to stop her from organizing marches to commemorate her son’s death. The next march is planned for 15 August.

  13. Socialism in Cuba has not built anything in the past 50 years that has been worth keeping. All of the revolution’s early gains where made with what it inherited from the Republic.

    Where are the gains from education? Teachers prefer to be Taxi drivers rather than work for measly wages. Where are the gains from the electrification campaign? There are places even in the capital where power is nonexistent and power outages are a daily occurrence. Where are gains of the medical system? Cubans complain of the lack of doctors, who all appear to be abroad in Haiti or Venezuela to promote the image of Cuba at the expense of average Cubans back home.

    Where are these advances that are so commonly repeated? They are 40 years away from us, only in the memories and minds of those who refuse to come to terms with reality…

  14. MADRID — The United States is prepared to take in Cuban political prisoners following their release from jail, Spain’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

    A ministry spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos in a phone conversation that the U.S. would be prepared to accept dissidents so long as the transfer did not break any laws.

    The spokesman said Clinton had congratulated Moratinos for Spain’s joint effort with the Roman Catholic church to arrange the release of dissidents arrested in a March 2003 crackdown.

    Some 75 dissidents were arrested in 2003 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason.

    In a landmark deal after talks with the church and Spain, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release 52 prisoners still being held.

    Spain has so far accepted 25 Cuban dissidents, but some have refused release, saying they will only go to the U.S.

    Katherine Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, said she had no details on the matter, adding that the Department of Homeland Security normally assesses the status of such negotiations.

    All the dissidents released so far have agreed to leave Cuba for Spain; one later settled in Chile.

    The ministry spokesman said that Clinton had also briefed Moratinos on Mideast talks to take place on Sept. 2 in Washington between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

    The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.

  15. House deficit is estimated in 1.6 million units. 75% of the units in existence are over 40 years old, and 60% of the total is in bad or average condition according to the Cuban National Housing Institute.

    Official estimates indicate that 457,800 homes were damage by five hurricanes in recent years, of which 76,854 were destroyed and 91,472 seriously damaged. The lack of adequate housing is the regime gravest social problem. Without sufficient capital investment to provide adequate housing this has become a nearly insuperable obstacle for the regime.

  16. Agencia EFE : La Iglesia católica de Cuba intercede contra presión a madre de Zapata, según Damas de Blanco

    La Habana, 21 ago (EFE).- La Iglesia católica de Cuba ha comunicado a las Damas de Blanco que ha intercedido en contra de los actos de presión hacia Reina Tamayo, madre del fallecido opositor Orlando Zapata Tamayo, dijo hoy a Efe una portavoz de ese grupo disidente.

    Representantes de las Damas de Blanco, familiares de los presos políticos del Grupo de los 75 condenados en 2003, se reunieron ayer con el cardenal cubano Jaime Ortega en La Habana para tratar temas del proceso de liberación de esos opositores, indicó Berta Soler, miembro del colectivo de mujeres.

    Soler señaló que en el encuentro, también confirmado por fuentes de la Iglesia, el cardenal Ortega afirmó que las autoridades católicas “están haciendo todo lo que tienen que hacer” para evitar los actos de acoso contra Reina Tamayo en la localidad oriental de Banes.

    “(Ortega) nos respondió que él siempre ha hecho todo y va a seguir haciendo lo necesario para intervenir en esos actos de acoso, como mismo sucedió antes con las Damas”, dijo Soler, quien fue una de las asistentes a la reunión con el Arzobispo de La Habana.

    Disidentes cubanos han denunciado que partidarios del Gobierno hostigan a Reina Tamayo y no le permiten asistir a misa en Banes, ni visitar la tumba de su hijo Orlando Zapata Tamayo, muerto el 23 de febrero pasado en la cárcel tras una huelga de hambre de 85 días.

    De acuerdo con Soler, la respuesta del cardenal sobre la situación de Tamayo fue la única que recibieron en la reunión, a la que asistieron para escuchar los resultados de la tramitación de varias “interrogantes” que las Damas pidieron a la Iglesia llevar al Gobierno.

    “El Gobierno no dio respuesta y según la Iglesia puede ser porque ven nuestras preguntas como ‘conjeturas'”, dijo la mujer, al explicar que hace 25 días entregaron al Arzobispado una serie de dudas sobre las excarcelaciones de 52 presos del Grupo de los 75 en las que ha mediado la jerarquía católica.

    La lista incluye preguntas como por qué no ha sido liberado aún ninguno de los presos que no quiere marcharse a España y, en el caso de que los que sí deciden exiliarse, por qué no se les permite ir a sus casas a despedirse de los familiares que no viajarán con ellos.

    Además, las Damas de Blanco cuestionan sobre el estatus legal de los liberados, y por qué el Gobierno niega la salida del país a otros excarcelados con licencia extra penal del Grupo de los 75 que hace años tienen visados para viajar.

    El compromiso de las liberaciones, que ya suman 26, es resultado del diálogo entre la Iglesia y el Gobierno de Raúl Castro, que ha sido apoyado por España, y prevé la excarcelación en cuatro meses de todos los presos políticos del Grupo de los 75 opositores que quedaban en prisión.

    Según ha venido sucediendo desde el pasado 12 de julio, sólo han sido excarcelados los presos que aceptan irse inmediatamente a España junto a sus familiares, tras ser consultados al respecto por la Iglesia.

    Esta semana la mediación de la Iglesia ante el Gobierno fue duramente criticada por 164 disidentes cubanos en una carta dirigida al Papa Benedicto XVI, cuyo contenido el Arzobispado de La Habana calificó de “ofensivo”.

    Berta Soler resaltó que las Damas de Blanco conocieron de la misiva antes de que fuera entregada, pero decidieron no suscribirla por su contenido “político”.

    Soler insistió en que las Damas “respetan” los criterios y decisiones de cualquier grupo disidente y no tienen “preferencia” ni “malas relaciones” con ninguno, pero dejó en claro que ellas no son un colectivo político y sólo defienden los derechos humanos.

    Sobre el papel de la Iglesia católica cubana, dijo que las Damas de Blanco ven la mediación como “positiva”, y destacó que “realmente” se han excarcelado hombres y piensan que será así con los restantes en el plazo anunciado.

  17. Injuring urbanity in Cuba is the same as injuring our IQ at
    a communist site for propaganda campaigns against America and capitalism. They focus on “imperialism aggression” against Latin-American people, but nothing about Russian imperialism aggressions against other countries, please remember intervention in Afganistan aimed at to protect ONE communist in office.
    This is really incredible! Marxist hate capitalism and market economy, but they are using all capitalism’s innovations and technologies, as Internet as example. As we know, socialism and communist never created any productive innovations, only weapons, and they used in hundred of wars. More amazing of all, those american marxists are claiming USDollar as a currency is finished (acting as traitors against own country). Are there any american law to prosecute traitors? Not doubt, those marxist want American will fall down as Cuba today.

  18. When I was in Havana last year I was amazed at the decrepit state of the buildings. As tourists they take you to Old Havana, which is well funded for renovation and I saw many different buildings being worked on and many that have been beautifully restored. However you don’t have to go far off the tourist path to see the real state of the buildings, overflowing with human habitation, with roofs ready to collapse, electrical wires dangling everywhere, in need of patching and painting for 50 years but no concrete or paint available if one had the time or energy to do the extra work required beyond just trying to get to and from work or get food for one’s family. If people don’t own their properties, or the government can take it on a whim, then people will not invest limited resources beyond their basic needs to improve those properties. There is pride in ownership, beyond some ethereal pride in the common good or the “revolution” or whatever you want to call it, that is real and tangible and results in real effort by people to make improvements above and beyond their basic needs, to make sacrifices. This pride applies not only to property but to the means of production. My experience in Cuba these last four times I have travelled there is one of apathetic workers getting paid minimal wages and a serious lack of customer service because nobody has ownership and so they don’t care, they get paid their wages and count the hours until they can go home to their families. When I went to Mexico two years ago I was startled at the difference. People go out of their way to serve you because they have a stake in the enterprise. People go out of their way to improve their properties because they are their properties and they take pride. I improve my property because I am proud of my home and what I accomplish. I go out of my way to look after my customers because as a sole proprietor they are my bread and butter and without them I have nothing. This is an inherent aspect of human nature that Marxism has tried to obliterate with it’s philosophical concept of the “new man” who sacrifices for the common good or the “revolution.” Hitler tried it, Stalin tried it, Mao tried it, Guevara and Castro tried it, guess what, it doesn’t work, it isn’t natural and the only way to perpetuate the myth is through propaganda and repression. I think Cubans are starting to see through the propaganda and realize that you can’t hide the truth forever. You can’t hide crumbling buildings or empty markets or widespread apathy forever.

  19. ***
    It seems like Army Barrack living conditions. Living in the Military seems like living in Cuba.
    Parece similar a los condiciones en un vivienda de soldados en el erjecito. Viviendo en los fuerzas armados parece como viviendo en Cuba.
    John Bibb

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