25 years Without Water: Calle Melilla in the Havana District of El Rincón
‘When we complain, what they send us are inspectors. We call them muzzles, because all they want is for us to keep quiet,’ complains a resident.
El Rincón is a picturesque neighborhood located some ten miles from the center of Havana, very close to Santiago de las Vegas, in the municipality of Boyeros. According to the Ecured site: “Part of its flat and low lands in the west and south are occupied by the Ariguanabo lagoon, where the Govea River flows, the most important in the territory. It also features springs and groundwater of great value for human consumption. This town also benefits from a climate featuring periodic rainfall.”
El Rincón is also popular for an annual pilgrimage by hundreds of people, who turn out between December 10 and 21 to pay tribute to St Lazarus. Water services are installed in the vicinity of the church for foreign and Cuban pilgrims.
However, the residents on the block located on the Calle Melilla between Primera and Tercera have been waiting for more than 25 years to be connected to the water supply in that part of the area.
According to some inhabitants, “one of the resident’s connections was enlarged, so that it is now on his land.” The fights over water access have even resulted in fierce quarrels.
“As you can imagine, it has been this way for so long that there’s even been a fatality.”
“Every time we have gone to complain to Public Attention, in Boyeros, Deisy repeats the same thing: they’re going to take care of it, but time continues to go by. In my case, my wife is sick, my grandchildren are young, and I have to receive the flowback when it arrives. Of course, it does so with much less pressure.”
“This is like being in Africa. In the Declaration of Human Rights it says that every person has the right to receive 50 litres of water per day.”
“We have gone to Aguas de La Habana (water company), and it does not appear anywhere in the system that El Rincón is in the plans, though Acueducto tells us that it is. If it is, someone is lying to us.”
“At first they sent us a pipe every three days, then every seven, and now it’s every ten. But it’s not reliable: sometimes it’s 20, 25 or even 40 days. There’s no fixed period. It’s a desperate situation, and the worst thing is how much they spend on those pipes when the problem could be solved with a hundred meters of hose. It’s insolent, and a mockery of the people.”
The lack of communication between the different companies in charge of guaranteeing the supply of water to the residents in the place is glaring, as is the bureaucratic buck passing suffered by those who have gone to the Public Attention offices.
According to Prensa Latina, on its X (formerly Twitter) account, last July First Deputy Minister Inés Chapman said that “actions are being taken to reduce the number of people who lack water resources on a regular basis, and, thus, to also address the discontent over this sensitive problem for the inhabitants of Cuba’s capital city.”
Citing this tweet, on the Prensa Latina site they say that the number of “malcontents” comes to some 200,000 Havana residents, and that the main municipalities affected are Playa, Marianao and La Lisa.
According to statements by the Aguas de La Habana Company to refer to this pressing problem, Prensa Latina also reports that “the pumping infrastructure recently suffered damage from electric overloads, which caused 158 breakdowns in June alone.”
Meanwhile, hotels for tourists continue to be built in the capital, which will be outfitted with optimal water service to supply, in some cases, more than one swimming pool, and numerous guest rooms and bathrooms.
Near the end of this report, one of the residents of El Rincón added: “Around here, when we complain, what they send us are inspectors. We call them ‘muzzles,’ because all they want is for us to keep quiet.”
For reasons of confidentiality, sources have been omitted, but suffices to visit the Calle Melilla to verify the suffering there and the veracity of the facts and testimonies provided here.