What Irma Left Behind for Us

Paula Henriquez

Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I hadn’t walked along the Malecon since the day before hurricane Irma swept through the city. That time, my husband and I were running around like crazy looking for supplies and thinking about buying just enough so that it wouldn’t go to waste when we wouldn’t have electricity which without a doubt would happen in the days immediately after the hurricane.

None of the heartbreaking and depressing images that we saw today, doing the same thing, could have passed through our minds at that time.

As you walk down Paseo, you can see the trees that have been burnt by the salty residue. There isn’t any greenery in the area. The bits of sand on the street remind you of a beach, but these aren’t fond memories, not when this used to be an avenue that was generally always kept clean or quite clean and today looks like the dirtiest beach you could imagine. Food is still being sold to those affected, there are still cables hanging too low for the danger they pose.

The Galerias de Paseo shopping center, which before the hurricane already looked like anything but what it was, is beyond imagination. The sea attacked with great force, a lot of force against its walls, doors and windows. The surrounding buildings didn’t escape the strong winds and tide either.  The Statistics and Information office block is one more of the so many that are now uninhabitable.

Nearby kiosks no longer exist, only their walls remain, or what were the walls, on the ground, transformed into piles of rubble. What used to be the well-known B St. crafts Fair is now just a pile of stones and pipes on the pavement.

People run around like crazy chickens, bumping into each other, taking the little or almost nothing that markets have. Bars, restaurants and other businesses are in absolute ruin. Even today, more than 15 days after Irma hit, it seems that destruction has just taken over these places.

The Malecon avenue remains closed. People who have seen a little more than me say that with so much damage, it will be a good while before cars will be able to drive along there.

Our walk was short in the end; we didn’t want to continue walking through this part of Vedado. We got very depressed.  And I only think about when all of this will be put behind us, when everything will return to “normal”, to our normal.

Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. “Think before you speak, especially in front of others,” my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

  • weirdly1

    Since the US has this stupid unreasonable embargo on Cuba, possibly China or Russia will aid in rebuilding your lovely places. The short sighted US government doesn’t realize the tourism potential of Cuba because they have tunnel vision and don’t seem to pay attention to history (or never learned it). Their main interest is enhancing quick corporate profits and not preserving the culture of their neighbors unless they will become puppets. This is similar to the old and failed Soviet Union philosophy that the US abhorred but seems to be following. Viva Cuba!

  • Ginni

    Don’t blame things on the US. You don’t have fuel nor trucks to deliver any food, water or supplies. Too much debris on the streets and the infrastructure is so torn up along with the streets why would tourists want to endure that?