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Amid all the stories of Cuba’s new prosperity, residents of its capital are growing frustrated by the daily reality of uncollected rubbish, overflowing sewage and water leaks – and asking: ‘Why did Havana become like this?’
On a street corner in Vedado, Havana’s most affluent suburb, pedestrians have had to manoeuvre around a metre-wide hole in the pavement on Calle 10 for months. Smashed concrete spills on to the road, encircling what has since turned into a pit of rubbish – a pockmark on the face of Havana’s fading grandeur.
This is, according to residents, “the way things are” in the Cuban capital. As the city, its people and its architecture has aged, so too have its public services. While on the face of it, the city is getting a new lift through the easing of Cuban-US relations, municipal support structures are failing badly in many parts of the city. As residents get tired of these inefficiencies, they’re expressing their anger – and pointing to the breakdown of Cuban socialism.
“When Obama came [in March] they cleaned the whole street; they put the beggars and homeless in a special asylum,” says Hamlet Lavastida, a 33-year-old artist who lives in Havana. “They made new roads, they painted many buildings, just in the areas where Obama was going to be. People joked that now we’re going to have to wait another 50 years for the next US president to come, to make another new road …”
These may just be lighthearted jokes for now, but Lavastida suggests there is a growing discontent among Cubans about the state of public services: the dirty streets, the broken infrastructure. […]