Fallen (but not) in Combat: Another Anniversary

On Friday the 15th of January I was at the Parque Central hotel, invited by my friend Iván, to log in for the second time to my blog, somewhat anxiously, because I had to spend my time on-line ‘touching up’ previously published posts which were missing some commas and bold type, the editing that helps to make a text more readable, including the nostalgic end of year post, inexplicably mutilated.

Although the Internet access voucher specified an hour, after fifty minutes they disconnected me, with my consequent despair, since I hadn’t even had time to check my mail. My companions, already used to this, told me, “That’s normal: that’s how the people from ETECSA (Cuba’s only telecoms company) save up connection time to sell ‘on the side’.”

So I left, having been given the hump, and as we went by the Payret Cinema I told my companions that on the 15th of January three years ago I’d suffered a terrible fall along that very same pavement. My leg went down a hole up as far as my knee, and my thigh didn’t follow only because it didn’t fit. Blood, pain, filth: I still don’t know how I managed not to lose a limb. I showed them the ugly scar it had left me along my ankle, and the small one on my knee, so deep that I had never again been able to kneel on it (which put paid to my career as a masseuse).

Did you guess? The hole was still there, if anything a bit bigger than three years ago when, with night having fallen and car headlamps shining across at me, I quite literally ‘put my foot in it’ as I went to cross Prado.

I was sorry not to have a camera, but Iván, so well prepared, loaned me his and these are the photos you see here. While I was waiting for the bus, I remembered an enthusiastic campaign to eradicate structural obstacles in the built environment. The campaign, which happened before I fell, was focused on getting rid of obstacles to access for the physically handicapped. Most of the pavements in the most central part of Havana were lowered at intersections. At that moment, impressed, I asked myself: What about obstacles between one intersection and another, don’t they count? Wouldn’t it be better to fix the length and breadth of the pavements and not just to lower them at intersections? Between them, the roots of trees, the shoddy work done by the gas and the water companies, unscrupulous inhabitants, and the passage of time have left the city with a legacy like that of one that’s been bombed.

It’s unusual to walk along a pavement that’s in a good state of repair. With the same enthusiasm that characterises all the campaigns that have been taken up in Cuba since 1959, the campaign to eradicate structural obstacles in the built environment was forgotten and the pavements are in a dreadful state which only gets worse with each year that passes. Today, other campaigns, like the one for Cuba’s gastronomic resurgence, or the one to stop the spread of infectious diseases, steal the headlines. The hole along Prado, opposite the Capitolio building, will remain there in all its glory, until such time as its victim is some unsuspecting foreign tourist.

Translated by RSP

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