Reports from Cuba: Havana in the past and present

Safie M. Gonzalez writes in Havana Times:

Havana in the Past and Present

Havana in the 1950s.

Havana will turn 501 years old, this November. I remember that this time last year, and for quite some time, the capital was getting ready to celebrate it’s 500th anniversary. Some color here, a lick of paint there, and it seemed like it was celebrating its 15 springs, but if we’re being honest, Havana seems more like a never-ending autumn than spring.

Looking at old black and white photos of the capital, from the ‘50s, and listening to stories from that time, I really am nostalgic for a time that I didn’t even live in, but definitely would have liked to. It’s exciting to see the places and buildings, people and cars, the ones that still wander our streets, serving as taxis for Cubans and tourists alike.

Comparing our Havana, today’s one, with the not-so-old Havana of the ‘40s and ‘50s, makes me sad. The architecture of a city named marvelous, is falling into ruin, it is becoming destitute, because its people don’t understand it, and its leaders don’t care. Walking through streets full of rubble and buildings collapsing is a painful experience.

Havana today.

It’s painful to see people smoking and drinking on street corners, annoying their neighbors or passers-by. You can hear shouting sometimes, and sometimes people sprinting because there’s been a robbery.

It’s sad to see how people throw bottles, cans, wrappers and any other piece of waste into the sea from the Malecon. It’s especially painful to see how the city and spirit of its people become poorer, with every year that passes. Every day, every year, the marvellous city reflects its residents more and more.

Havana has developed over the centuries. It has been the birthplace of illustrious celebrities, in culture and sports. It has been an inspiration for artists, a reason to travel, both for Cubans from other provinces and foreigners who come under the illusion they will find a “magazine cover” city; but is it?

Do we respect its streets, walls, balconies, its history? Do we respect ourselves, as co-inhabitants in this city? A city, which showed its best face in black and white, over 60 years ago.

Havana in the 1950s.