Photo feature by Elio Delgado Valdes
HAVANA TIMES — The two-story metallic structure known as the Emboque de Luz welcomes passengers for their trip to the other side of Havana Bay. The new building was built upon an old structure which dates back to the 18th century and became a Fire Station in 1942, to provide protection to the port, in case of a fire. It was remodeled and revamped to take on its original function once again: to transport passengers from the port to the towns of Regla and Casablanca.
The ground floor is supplied with benches for people waiting, phones, ATM machines and bathrooms. Personal belongings are checked by security guards before approaching the boarding docks while security cameras watch people coming and going. Architectural barriers were taken into account when planning the project and eliminated in order to facilitate access for the disabled and pregnant women.
On the top floor, there is a 24 hour cafe. From there, you can see part of the bay while you wait; the menu is varied and is run by young graduates from the Technical School of Gastronomy.
Sheltered by the glass which surrounds the place, passengers are protected from the rain, scorching sun and wind, its proximity to the bus stop also means that it is a shelter for people who are waiting to carry on their journey.
The Baragua, La Coubre and 4th Vongreso boats make the journey across the bay. After consecutive events which were the outcome of ships being hijacked during the Special Period, which began with the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo in the night hours of July 13th 1994, with 50 people on board, the Baragua, July 26th and La Coubre boats were all hijacked on August 3rd.
These violent incidents ended on August 5th 1994, with the “Maleconazo” protest, events lost in time and memory, but which led to security measures being put into place not only at the docks but onboard boats too. Bars separate the outdoor passengers from the captain and enjoying the trip from the back of the boat, which people traditionally used to do, has been forbidden ever since then.
In Havana bay, there are four docks, the new one in Havana, Regla, Caballeria and Casablanca. According to what our elders say, until the 1960s, there used to be small boats which used to transport people from one shore to the other for 25 cents. Today, on the west side of the bay, only the redone Emboque de Luz continues to function from 4 AM until 11:30 PM.
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