San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty / Alexander Perez Rodriguez, Somos+
Posted on September 28, 2015
SOMOS+, Alexander Perez Rodriguez, 24 September 2015 — With the new
relations between the U.S. and Cuba the hopes of many went skyrocketing
in an alarming manner, principally in the Diaspora, where people dream
of returning to their country and prospering there in a dignified way. I
already imagined my city as totally changed, with new streets, shops
full of everything a human being needs and no ration book to restrict them.
Well, finally the moment arrived to go and visit my family on the
island. I remember that on this occasion I exited the airport earlier
than usual. I only had to enter Calzada de Boyeros to have all my
illusions fall away. Everything, absolutely everything, remained the
same or worse than when I was there a year ago.
I left for the outskirts of Santiago de la Vegas Carretera Rincón to go
to the municipality where I was born. Those who know San Antonio de los
Baños will share with me that it's a very unusual and attractive town.
At least it always was.
This municipality is known as the City of Humor, and those who live
there are known as ariguanabenses.* And we are very funny and
talkative. We laugh at everything and everybody. Like, for example, that
day when we went to sleep in Havana and woke up in Artemisa, ha ha ha,
I'm still laughing about it, ha ha ha.**
We never knew when this change was discussed and who approved it.
However, there have been many events in these last few years that have
brought the town a pure disaster and wiped the smiles off our faces.
We still remember and bleed for the loss of the 14 young people who left
the coast of Mariel to go to the U.S., and their precarious boat sank.
This grief today is kept alongside a rage that is on the point of exploding.
However, the events of these last months have put San Antonio in a
desperate situation. News like the Computer Science University's passing
into the hands of the Minister of Education has made many of the workers
who were from my town believe that things are hopeless. The same thing
will happen with the Eduardo Abela School of Art, since the level of
deterioration in less than five years is incredible. The Iván Portuondo
Hospital is also in critical condition.
When I asked why my town was so deteriorated, they sat me down and
explained: Only two months ago, all or almost all of the leaders of my
town had fallen victim to an investigation, presumably for embezzling funds.
But in spite of having a new municipal directorship, people don't seem
to have accepted it, at least in fact.
Because no one has given a concrete explanation of what happened. It's
not possible that this not be published by the State agencies when it's
an issue for a whole town. The result: Today San Antonio is a town where
Everyone whispers about the problem. I remember when I arrived at the
physical planning office to manage my house and they told me the
paperwork wasn't there because the Director's signature was missing.
I asked where I could find her and, very mysteriously, they informed me
that a doctor confirmed she had a psychiatric problem. It seems she was
embarrassed about it, and thus all the State agencies in my town
There's a lot of sadness and indignation because that president, Tomy,
was respected and admired by the town. Everyone concurred that whether
or not she ripped things off, in any event this had been happening their
whole lives. And everyone agreed that the only time the streets were
fixed was under her leadership. When there was a lack of water, she
found a solution. She paid attention to many people who were not
important and helped them. That's the Tomy the people remember.
The culprits appear to be others: the upper Government, those who have
disengaged from Cuba for more than 55 years, and no one has audited them
and called them out for everything the people have suffered.
It's sad to see the condition of my town. Nothing pretty remains. It's
ugly, very deteriorated and the schools are in the worst condition; the
hospital, the hotel, the Cecropia trees, the shops and the bars are very
dirty. My god, how it hurts to see my town in this condition.
But I know and am certain that one day, not far in the future, my town
will look different. It will return to its youth. Now, we can't make the
many who have perished at sea fleeing a lack of opportunity return. But
we can guarantee a more just and equal society where young people don't
have to flee as if they were guilty.
We are more, much more, those of us who every day struggle for this
dream and know that it will come true, and soon.
*Those who live by the Ariguanabo River, which runs through San Antonio
de los Baños.
**A political-administrative redistribution in Cuba created two
provinces for San Antonio de los Baños, and Habana Province became
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty / Alexander Perez
Rodriguez, Somos+ | Translating Cuba -