…greatest enemies to the Natural environment. And also the Architectural structure of the city – a great old Colonial City like Havana where almost all of the 19h century buildings are still standing, and early 20th century buildings are still standing. They haven’t been bulldozed down. The old Historic Section of the city has not been replaced by modern kind of structures.
It is that constant changing prompted in part by the tourist industry. Where you are really in kind of a double bind – you need to preserve some of those things to attract tourists to come in because that is what they want to see, but on the other hand, the tourists come in and also want all first class accommodations; they want the swimming pool in their hotel, they want all the amenities, you want to house as many of them as possible so you have to build these huge hotels, which then tear down the waterfront, which tears down the beach areas, knocks down a lot of these old buildings. So it’s a balance between the two. But it’s that excessive development which is one of the enemies of the old architectural environment, and also to the natural environment.
The greatest natural enemy to the human/building environment in Havana is the Ocean. The salt from the Caribbean Ocean, the warm breezes constantly blowing in from the north. Havana is a relatively windy city which is a good thing, because over the last 15-20 years with the economy as bad as it is, there is very little air conditioning in Havana except in a few luxury hotels. So its a very insufferable place to walk around in with the heat. But you do get the constant ocean breeze. The problem with that is that all the old wrought iron from those 19th century buildings for example is all rusting away. Very little of it had been painted in Havana over the last 50 years.
Now with the destruction…not really destruction, but the real ‘lowering’ of the economy of the entire country. Because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and that support, because of the collapse of the sugar cane industry, because of the collapse of the tobacco, and the other things that were bringing in income. The limited amount of income coming in from tourism because it isn’t full-fledged as it might be if they had been able to make that change with the United States. There just isn’t the money to do any Preservation.
So these buildings that have not been bulldozed down, are now being slowly eaten away and crumbling, because of 50-60 years of that ocean wind blowing in and really destroying the architectural environment.
One of the things that also saved some of the Environment in Cuba however is that it never was, even before the Revolution, really an industrial society. It was an agricultural/rural society and Havana never became that big industrial city. Havana has not become an industrial city even in the last 50 years after the Revolution, because there has been no rule or no opportunity for any kind of industrial development there.
And the resources are such that you are not going to ever have coal production, you’re not going to have iron production, you won’t have these kinds of things that have to be imported because the raw materials are not there on that island for that kind of thing.
Cuba Short – Peter Bjarkman