Martha Beatriz Roque continues to capture incredible images from the hellhole she inhabits.
Images that defy logic. Images that defy time and space. Images that rape one’s memory. Images that rip out one’s heart and consume it.
Each and every image is a demonic transverberation of the soul.
This is the neighborhood of Guanabacoa in Havana, in 2014.
Past and present converge: ancient cars navigate flooded streets. The sewers no longer work, but the ancient cars do.
The streets become rivers whenever it rains.
No people-to-people tourist encounters in this part of town, where my father once worked.
He rode the bus to Guanabacoa, and sometimes I went with him.
The streets were not flooded then, but these cars still traversing them were there, for sure.
Maybe I laid eyes on them when they were brand new?
Faded glory, present squalor: A lot of attention was lavished on this corner building when it went up, but now it crumbles.
A small handwritten sign, barely visible, warns of an imminent collapse. Stores continue to serve customers on the ground floor, and families crowd the apartments upstairs.
No one has any place to go, so they stay. Tick tock.
The past seems incredible, improbable. Who could build anything like this today?
The present is all too real: nothing but ruins.
The future is so bleak that one cannot think about it: the building will undoubtedly kill and maim those who are doomed to live, work, and shop there, or even those who walk past it.
Individual human beings don’t matter.
Abstractions are all that matters: “the people,” the Revolution,” “socialism,” “maximum leaders,” “anti-imperialism,” and so on……
Slogans. Hand written messages from zombie slaves and from those at death’s rotting door.
The signs are so small, so hard to notice, so hard to read. What do they say?
Long live the Revolution? Socialism or death?
No. They shout: Peligro de derrumbe! (Danger of collapse!)
Or, maybe they quote the gladiators of ancient Rome: Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.
Hail, Emperor, we who are about to die salute you!