Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
One little trauma – drama
Categories: My Havana City

Not too many people know how much I have  disliked the construction of the “Tribuna Antimperialista Jose Martí” in Havana.

One morning I woke to the noise of cranes, big trucks and ground diggers to find that my childhood park was getting completely destroyed to build “I don’t know what”! All I was able to do, with watery eyes, was to grab my camera and take photos of the event.

Everything started in late 1999 when the Cuban government was trying to bring  the kid Elian Gonzalez back to his father in Matanzas, after this mother tragically drowned trying to get into the United States. The child’s relatives in Miami  insisted in keeping and raising the kid and a whole series of daily protests began in front of the American “embassy” (not officially an embassy) to demand the return of the child. Each afternoon hundreds of people would gather there in disapproval.

Fidel Castro decided to create a intensive project to quickly build a massive and permanent tribune that would serve the purpose of bringing Elian back and later to be used as a permanent place for political activities.

Let’s not forget that this part of the city is a residential area with many buildings around. Although it  is in downtown Havana this area used to be quiet, kids used to freely run and play at the park; it had a big fountain that would not run water in years, and a little bridge going across the fountain that witnessed me sliding in carton boxes many times.

I could say that memories are the biggest reason for me to argue against the tribune.

The construction of this place took about 80 days. Workers were labouring 24 hours a day and the night lights, noise and dust were unbearable. Every time they had an activity there the neighbourhood would be packed with police officers asking for ID from everyone approaching the tribune area to visit friends. People were not able to cross the tribune area freely, kids were not allowed to play there when the place was empty and the parking space in front of the American embassy could not be used anymore by the neighbours.

Finally when the construction was finished I criticized the horrible architecture, laughed a little bit thinking that those steel arches and ugly palm trees were going to need a lot of maintenance and painting sitting right in front of the ocean, where nada can survive the salt. Also, I was saddened by the fact that all the concrete used to build that place could have been used to repair not one but three old Havanas.

Nowadays the tribune is synonym of free concerts. I have seen bands like Air Supply and Audioslave for free.  Manu Chao, Calle 13 and of course, lots of national bands have had concerts there.

I will always miss my lovely and tranquil park. It will only live in my memory and pictures taken and I promise I will try not to put myself in the nostalgic mode when I think about it.

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