S.O.S. for Cojimar, Havana

June 16, 2009 | Print Print |

By Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad

Cojimar, a fishing village on the outskirts of Havana

HAVANA TIMES, June 16 – Cojimar, a fishing village on the outskirts of Havana, is separated from the Alamar housing projects by a river.  Though serene and easy to cross when it is about to empty into the sea, that same river – like all those of Havana – is dirtier than an ill-attended newborn.

Because of the waterway, the residents on the two sides need a bridge in order to communicate. However, it seems to never have occurred to anyone to build one that doesn’t rust out. For some time communication between the two communities has been endangered.

Yet there are other things in danger in Cojimar, which in my view is the most beautiful village in all Havana.

Cojimar, a fishing village on the outskirts of Havana

Its beach is spotted with garbage carried there by the river, and loses a little more of its sand with every passing day – carted off by anyone who is building and can’t find where to buy it. And with the sand, the crabs are also disappearing.

Swordfish season is approaching, and with it the tournament that takes its name from Ernest Hemingway. Nonetheless, the competition is no longer held in Cojimar, where it began; instead, it has moved to the west side of the capital, to an upscale international marina also named after Hemingway, although the ordinary fishermen who used to participate do not go there.

For today’s residents of Cojimar – with their rum, beer, roasted chicken and reggaeton – they have begun to forget the emotion of hauling in the biggest catch; and of course you’ll hear “Hemingwho?” from those under 25.

Cojimar has one of the first stone towers constructed in colonial times; the 17th century stronghold continues to crumble away, but nobody has decided to preserve it.

The water on the area’s coast is healthier than that of other places (according to what a doctor told me), but I worry about the town’s proximity to new oil wells.  Oil has been killing the world ever since it was discovered.

The village has been slowly transforming into a suburb. The properties there (ignored until the late 80s) are undergoing development, since people need housing, but the sewer system needs improvement.

Fishermen

Being close to the sea makes the locals healthier and somehow more decent; the kids love to fish and they learn how to swim almost before they can walk.  Children’s parks (almost absent in the rest of the city) are common there.

It’s not hard to find a hummingbird or the ladybug in any given garden, the fishermen have countless stories to share, and even the strokes of the bell of the old parish insinuate the hamlet’s many tales.

Cojimar continues to be a magical place… even still.

Click on the thumbnails to see all the photos in this gallery


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