Santiago de Cuba: Post Sandy Reconstruction Brings Contrasts & QuestionsOctober 25, 2013 | Print |
By Dariela Aquique (Photos: Janis Hernandez)
HAVANA TIMES — The morning of October 25, 2012, will be an unpleasant memory for the people of Santiago de Cuba for a long time to come. The horror of hurricane Sandy caused the loss of human lives (not many, thank God) and all types of material damage.
No precautions sufficed against the nefarious onslaught of the winds. Our first photo feature, completed some hours after the devastating incident, gathered truly sad images across the city.
For several days, the city was without electricity, communications and drinking water. Little by little, all services were restored. Many houses and apartments, however, weren’t so lucky.
In a second piece on the incident, written exactly six months after the tragedy, I wrote (and it is well worth remembering) that, while recovery efforts were undertaken promptly, they were by no means complete.
Today, exactly one year since the hurricane struck the province, the provincial head of Housing, Alfredo Torres, reports that 54 percent of the damage to houses remains to be repaired and only 10 percent of the cases involving the complete collapse of the dwelling have been addressed.
It is said that, in ten years, more than 29 thousand homes for those affected by the hurricane will be constructed and unsanitary conditions in different neighborhoods will be eliminated through the use of modern construction technologies.
Though local and foreign construction brigades are working in different parts of the city to erect buildings for the families who lost their homes to the hurricane and the State is covering fifty percent of the costs of the building materials sold to the victims, recovery efforts are still not enough.
The fact of the matter is that there is something of a pebble in many people’s shoes: if so much damage was done to people’s most prized possession, their homes, why were so many resources destined to other projects?
Though it is true that many facilities and establishments built or repaired through these initiatives make the city prettier, it is also true that a considerable quantity of construction materials and labor were destined to the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada garrison this past July.
One case in point was the major repair of the Hotel Rex, undertaken for the simple reason that a number of the individuals involved in the attack on the garrison stayed there at one point.
The monumental art gallery located near the former garrison, the reconstruction and modernization of the Abel Santamaria park (where the military hospital was once located) are other examples.
Other establishments whose facades or interiors were restored or renovated have opened around the city, like the hard-currency (and perennially empty) chocolate shop.
The most questionable initiative was building a curious restaurant (shaped like an airport, and fitted with a plane), in the neighborhood of San Pedrito, one of the most severely damaged in the city.
Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery