The Death of Cuba's Railroads
01/29/2016 09:42 pm ET
Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba
14 y medio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 29 January 2016 - My father is
a train engineer. It has been decades since he drove a train, long years
in which he hasn't sounded the whistle of a locomotive while passing
through a village with children running alongside the line. However,
this still agile retiree originally from Matanzas still marks the 29th
of January on the calendar and says "it is my day." The day still smells
of iron braking on iron, and has the rush of the platform, where some
leave and others say goodbye.
The date honors the guild established in 1975, during the finishing of
the first stretch of the central line. At the celebration Fidel Castro
operated a Soviet locomotive, a moment that is still a source of
amusement among elderly train engineers. "Everything was ready and he
didn't even get the credit of making that mass move," says an old
conductor in his eighties. The event, more about politics than
railroads, was enough to let the imposed anniversary go.
The 19th of November should be the date for those who carry the iron
serpent circulating in our blood. The day the first rail link in Cuba
was completed, between Havana and Bejucal, in 1837, should get all the
credit to earn itself a celebration that goes beyond the fanfare of the
politicians and the headlines of the official press. In those nearly 17
miles (27.3 kilometers) of the initial line, a lineage began that
refuses to die.
Now, when I stand in front of the lines at La Coubre terminal in Havana
and observe the disaster that is rail transport in Cuba today, I ask
myself if the era of the "sons of the railroad" will come to an end. Old
cars, unsafe, accidents, delays, long lines to buy a ticket, luggage
thefts, the stench of the toilets... and an iron fence that isolates the
platform and those going aboard from those who are saying goodbye.
The Cuban railroad died. There is not much to celebrate on this day.
Source: The Death of Cuba's Railroads -