Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins – Part 2 of 6
By Humberto (Bert) Corzo
MIAMI – A 90-year-old Havana, Cuba, theater collapsed and killed one man in the fifth such wreck in 10 days, underscoring the precarious state of many dwellings and commercial structures in a city known for its architecture.
The Campoamor Theater, which opened in 1921, closed in the mid-1970s and then partially collapsed about five years ago, neighbors said. But four families, driven by Cuba’s critical housing shortage, were squatting there when it collapsed Thursday.
The four-story shell was featured in a 2006 documentary about the state of many of Havana’s old buildings, “The New Art of Making Ruins,” by German filmmakers Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler.
Ricardo Riquene Anaya, 47, plunged from the third floor and died when the building collapsed, one emergency worker said. His son had to be pulled from the ruins but reportedly suffered only cuts and bruises.
Just last week, at least four youths were killed and five injured when their three-story building, also in Centro Havana, fell in a heap. It had been condemned after a partial collapse over 10 years ago. Three other Havana buildings collapsed Thursday, but no injuries were reported, said the emergency worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“What we’re seeing is a sign of what is happening to the government, slowly crumbling,” dissident Martha Beatriz Roque said by telephone from Havana.
The decrepit state of the buildings in Havana after five decades of neglect by the Castroit tyranny, keep causing the death of Cubans living in condemned building, like in the case of homeless Reinaldo, who found shelter in the rubbles of the Campoamor Theater where he was living in one of the dressing rooms since 1992.
The powerless Cubans, which due to the acute housing shortage live in those old decrepit buildings, are at the mercy of a destiny that never gives a warning. The regime doesn’t do any repairs, but only picks up the debris after the buildings collapse.
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. 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 in 2007 revealed that less than half of the 111,300 housing units claimed built in 2006 were in fact built.
The 2002 census data shows that of the new housing units built between 1990 and 2002, close to 50,000 were bohíos and adobe structures. The bohío is a primitive dwelling with palm bark walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs; adobe, mud bricks walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs. Those can’t be classified as adequate housing.
By contrast, from 1953 to 1858, 42,000 bohios were upgrade bringing them to minimum standards of conform and safety, and 18,000 new peasant homes were built.
Humberto (Bert) Corzo was born in Cuba. In 1962 he graduated from University of Havana with a degree in Civil Engineering. Since coming to the United States in 1969, he established his residence in Los Angeles, California, where in 1972 he obtained the registration as a Professional Engineer. He has over forty five years of experience in the field of Structural Engineering. He is a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers.