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Pinar del Río: Six hours that changed everything

pinar ciclon 1We didn’t want to write. We were not there when Ian attacked the province of Pinar del Río with winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour; that land that saw us born and from which we can never let go. We didn’t want to write but it is a journalistic duty to tell stories and bring a pinch of hope to the last person.

Last Wednesday, from car to car, from stretch to stretch, we traveled about a hundred and fifty kilometers and reached Pinar del Río. Destruction, pain in people’s faces, fallen trees, houses without roofs, others on the ground. A bleak scene.

After talking with the first interviewee, the one who only had a roof fall off a terrace and her chest tightened when she assured us that she was not compared to others who had lost everything, there, just at that moment, something in us changed. .

We didn’t want to write but she had us travel the province, go to the most intricate places, feel the stories, try to tell them in the most reliable way possible. Without electricity or water, staying to sleep wherever the night took us, working mornings and afternoons in the provincial telecentre, but knowing that that was where we should be, and that despite everything, when we returned to Havana we had a roof over our heads, and that thousands in that land of good people had lost absolutely everything.

We didn’t want to write, but we did. There go the stories.

Walking along a road that is difficult to access, you reach “La Loma de la Candela”, the popular name of the first street at the end of the Diez de Octubre district, in the city of Pinar del Río. Cars cannot pass through the area, it is impossible, the road is in terrible condition.

In the surroundings of the highway there are simple houses, most of them made of wood, whose owners live as a family and that is how they passed Hurricane Ian.

Hopeful they say that the survey of the damages has already been done and that the area is included in a project that contemplates the total repair of the streets, the houses that are a few meters from them and public lighting. “Perhaps with Ian the process will be accelerated,” some say.

Testimonies from Loma de la Candela


Yusniel Norbel Valdés. Photo: Cubadebate.

“The three of us spent the cyclone together in the shop window”
On the night of September 27, Yadielis Madera and Yusniel Norbel Valdés sent their children Tania and Yudiel Alejandro to Yusniel’s mother’s house. “Because it is stronger. My wife and I stayed here to secure the roof,” says Yusniel, a 39-year-old turnboy.

On top of the roof they put some sacks, but as soon as the wind began to blow strongly, the first fiber of the front of the portal was lifted. And that’s where the never-ending battle began.

“I tried to hang on to pull it out, but I couldn’t and they all went away. We had to get inside the window to get past the cyclone.”

At 3:30 in the morning, from their temporary shelter they felt their door being pushed. “It was Reinier Pérez, one of the neighbors, asking for help.”

Reinier had fled from his wooden house. He was afraid that a tree would fall on the house. He went into the window with Yadielis and Yusniel. They had a bad time together.

Yadielis and Yusniel say that some windows became loose, others fell. The walls behind the kitchen cracked, the ones in the corners. Everything got wet: the mattress, the children’s notebooks, the equipment. During these days they continue giving things sun, “let’s see if we can recover them”.

Yadielis remembers that they spent the night watching how the zincs flew through the air, “with the fear that instead of doing it from the outside, they would go inside and catch us. It was the saddest night of my life.”

Her husband insists that he knows that everyone is affected, “but we have two small children and the roof gets completely wet. I had to look for the fibers in the streams and put them patched up, full of holes, to see if one day they help me with the fibers, or two bags of cement. What the State can”.

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Reinier, Yadielis and Yusniel.Photo: Cubadebate.

“I had to run away, because otherwise the house would fall on top of me”
With Reinier we also talked. When I left desperately around 3:30 a.m., because some segments had already fallen from the bush next to my house, I called Yusniel and the three of us went inside the shop window to wait for the thing to finish. As soon as I left, the bush fell on my house. If I managed to stay in there, I wouldn’t be doing the story right now”, he expresses with determination.

For Reinier, who graduated in Physical Education 22 years ago, Ian’s attacks broke the television, the refrigerator, the ceiling lamps… The mattresses were soaked in water.

“Here is my little house,” he says and points to what was left of his house. “This is what I have been able to achieve on my own, and now I have backed off with the hurricane. What is needed for the Revolution to help me make a ‘quimbito’, as the good Cuban says. I ask for nothing more.”

(By Angélica Arce MonteroThalía Fuentes Puebla/ Cubadebate)

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