Reports from Cuba: The swimming pool pothole in Havana where children bathe

Pedro Espinosa reports in 14yMedio from Havana via Translating Cuba:

The ‘Swimming Pool’ Pothole in Havana Where Children Bathe Has Been Open for Several Years

Neither the local authorities nor the company Aguas de La Habana have taken measures to fix the pothole

Open and full of puddles, the hole has been there for “a thousand years.” In reality, the neighbors say, it’s been about five, but it gives the impression of having always been there, in the middle of a street – in itself very mistreated – of the Havanan municipality of Cerro.

Five days after the video of children using the hole as an improvised swimming pool circulated on social networks, neither the local authorities nor the company Aguas de La Habana have taken measures to fix the hole. In the video, neighborhood children are throwing themselves, as if it were a spa, into the pond of water, which is suspiciously blue.

“It even gave birth to a few pumpkin plants,” a neighbor tells 14ymedio, referring to the hole as a kind of miniature world. “Aguas de La Habana came a month ago and put in a pipe, but evidently it leaks,” he adds, pointing to the chocolate edges of the puddle, where dirt and garbage accumulate.

The pothole is so imposing that it prevents the passage of bigger vehicles, such as cars or buses. If someone comes by motorcycle or bicycle, they can test their sense of balance and perform an evasive maneuver that involves invading the sidewalk. Pedestrians, in the face of that panorama, do not have it easy either.

On rainy days, the mud that accumulates around the edge is a danger. Huge lumps of debris and asphalt are also obstacles. “It looks like they threw a bomb,” says another neighbor, to whom the hole reminds him of the trench of any war movie or – when a downpour coincides with the leak – Niagara Falls.

“Everyone protests, everyone complains, but nothing happens,” complains another disappointed resident in the neighborhood, who says he is dismayed by a recent statement by the director of Aguas de La Habana that he heard on television: “There is no challenge that we have not met.”

The hole is the delight of mosquitoes, rats and cockroaches, which lay eggs in the corners. It is one of the most obvious sources of disease in Cerro, but that doesn’t seem to worry the leaders either. “When there’s water the hole fills up and the kids jump in,” he says in horror. That’s what happened a week ago, when someone from the neighborhood recorded the grotesque show of the bathers.

But the pothole is only the beginning – and perhaps the epicenter – of the disaster of the roads of Cerro. Beyond, between the weeds and the cracked sidewalks, there are buildings that have not been maintained for decades. Cerro was said to have “the key,” alluding to the fact that it was – since colonial times – the starting point of the Havana viaducts.

The famous Albear aqueduct was built there, at the time a marvel of Cuban architecture, and other important hydraulic engineering works. Of that traditional prosperity, marked by its proximity to water sources, there is no other trace than the pothole converted into a swimming pool.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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