Viernes, 17 de Agosto de 2018
Última actualización: 02:18 CEST

Reparto Eléctrico: causeways, mounds of garbage, spillage, and zero cultural life

Reparto Eléctrico. (J. E. RODRÍGUEZ)

The Consejo Popular Eléctrico, in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, is another example of a "marginalized neighborhood" stemming from the Government’s erroneous practices with regards to socio-cultural and economic issues, complain residents.

"It is hard to say that Reparto Eléctrico is a community when the first idea that comes to mind, if you pay attention, is its absolute desolation, in every way," says Luis Alcides, while waiting in a long line to withdraw money from the only ATM in the area.

"In Reparto we don't have even a CADECA (currency exchange center.). The closest one is in Mantilla, five bus stops away," says Lazara Mena, standing in the same line.

"There is a small branch of the Banco Metropolitano, where transactions are limited, and a little stand to pay phone bills, or for retirees to collect their pensions. But they close around 3:00 in the afternoon. After that time you have to go to La Víbora," she adds.

Other inhabitants complain about the deterioration and neglect the neighborhood suffers from, which has worsened in the last 15 years.

With a current population of approximately 19,515, distributed in six different sections, Reparto Eléctrico - formerly known as Finca Parcelación Blanquita - was completed on 26 August, 1952, on a lot of 5.2 caballerías (some 495 acres), thanks to a contribution of 48,000 USD from the Electrical Company Retirement Fund.

After rising to power in 1959, Fidel Castro's Government nationalized the electric company, and also distribution.

According to Isabel Díaz, a Metrology and Quality technician, what really characterizes the area today are "causeways instead of streets, mounds of garbage, wastewater leaks, limited lighting and public telephone services, and no cultural life."

"A cityscape that truly illustrates marginalization, where you have the feeling that the bushes are going to swallow the buildings. And there is never any answer about who is in charge of the distribution and implementation of state public utilities, because here, except for the general hospital and the schools, nothing works or exists."

Manuel Triana, a retired cartographer, says that she is proud of the fact that Popular Power delegates and territorial leaders don't like her.

"My questions irk them. They never show up when a problem is pressing. They appear for patriotic celebrations, when the main street is all decked out, the day after the garbage is collected. I always tell them: 'You come one day, and I live with the disaster the other 29 days of the month.'"

Without cultural life or entertainment

In addition to the shortage of State establishments (which affects the entire country), the dearth of public services, and the deterioration of all the Consejo Popular Eléctrico’s infrastructure, there is also a cultural void.

"Except on those occasions when artistic activities are organized by order of the Municipal Cultural Board, there is no cultural life here, even though we have the Casa de Cultura 13 de Agosto," grumbles Natacha Gutiérrez, age 24.

"At 9:00 everything stops, and the only services are those offered by the self-employed. But it can´t all be eating and drinking," says Ernesto Rosa.

"The Casa de Cultura has a program, but it does not address the entertainment interests of this community, and I don't mean just the teenagers, but also the children and the adults. The Casa de Cultura is like a church, it's so quiet there."

Madelyn Reygada, the mother of a 15-year-old son, says that she was recently summoned by a police unit in Zapata, in Vedado, because her son was caught with two friends taking selfies on the statue of Eloy Alfaro, on G Street.

"The officers behaved decently. But they asked me an incredible question: why my son went from here all the way to Vedado to have fun. I didn't even bother responding."

Local residents do not view their socio-cultural impoverishment as a unique, unusual or isolated case, but rather part of a phenomenon of marginalization that, Luis Alcides observed, extends through Havana's humblest neighborhoods, whether "central or on the outskirts."

An official with the municipal council in Arroyo Naranjo, who requested anonymity, stated that the "private sector could help to enrich the social, cultural and economic life of these neighborhoods."

"But there are many limitations and regulations imposed by the State on self-employment. As long as there is no public participation in the design of the country's cultural policy, we will witness the marginalization of an entire city."