The description of the crumbling architecture reminded me of two photos of a downtown Havana street that I saw a few years ago. Both were taken of the same row of buildings; one in 1959 before the overthrow of the pro-American Battista government and the second taken in the late 1990's.
All joking aside, Cuba is a mess
By Patrycja Romanowska
If one didn't find a reason to laugh, especially in Cuba, all one would do is cry.
Prior to my arrival in Cuba, I had much admiration for the tenacity of this small country in defying the dominance of the United States - especially coming from Canada where we constantly struggle to strengthen our (very different) relationship with the U.S. while maintaining our cultural integrity.
Leaving Havana, I could not help having the impression that the price paid for defiance was simply too high. The U.S. trade embargo has combined particularly well with the legendary inefficiencies and bureaucratic bottleneck of a command economy to effectively destroy the Cuban economy. Signs of this are everywhere.
The infrastructure is crumbling. Most buildings are in such a state of disrepair that it is hard to imagine they will stand for much longer and harder yet to imagine how so many people can live inside. Sewage and other household liquids drip onto the streets from cracks, broken pipes and balconies. There is garbage everywhere.
What is worse than seeing how badly these buildings have decomposed is glimpsing what they were before. Spanish colonial architecture was glorious and characterized by ornate detailing and vivid colours and it is possible to imagine, if one squints and tries very hard, what Havana must have looked like in different times.
There are few consumer goods and fewer places to get the ones that are available. The declining morale of the population at large is reflected by a rampant level of street crime. Each week we had at least one camera stolen or one purse snatched. One incident involved a girl from our group taking a snapshot in front of the hotel and having the camera ripped out of her hands by a passerby. (link)
What was striking about the two was that, when comparing conditions then and now, Havana is, as Ms. Romanowska writes, in a state of stagnation and decay. What were, in 1959, gleaming row houses of Spanish design, became, by the 90's, crumbling structures the likes of which cannot be found anywhere in the USA. It was fascinating to see, also, the nice expensive American Buicks, Chevrolets, and Cadillacs parked along the street in the earlier photo and similar American cars - of the same vintage but in dilapidated condition - still in use 40 years later.
I hope Castro dies soon. His people deserve a better life than the one forced upon them by El Lider and his band of communist thugs.
Viva Cuba Libre! The hour of your liberation is fast approaching.