Cleaning Havana’s Ocean Front – One Step at a Time…

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Havana’s ocean drive sea wall welcomes thousands of people every day, particularly during the summer months. Young people also bathe in this area of Cuba’s northern coast, even though it is technically illegal. As many Cubans and foreigners gather along this coastal strip, especially the area between the US Interests Section and Old Havana’s Prado street, the water tends to be littered with garbage that are thrown onto the reef and sea (most intensely during Havana’s summer carnivals).

In response to this, the members of the Guardabosques environmental project, a group that is part of the Observatorio Critico network, and other friends have carried out clean-up campaigns in the area near Prado street. The first clean-up took place in 2010, the second in 2012 and we are planning another for August, 2014. During each of our two previous sanitation campaigns, we have pulled out more than ten sacks of garbage, bottles, paper, plastic bags, cans, broken glass, bits of driftwood and all manner of waste materials from the water.

People always give us a strange look – we look “suspicious” to them – but, when they approach us and we have a chance to talk, after we explain to them why we do what we do, some help us, others praise and congratulate us and others tell us we’re crazy and that what we do is pointless. Generally speaking, we do manage to draw people’s attention to the need to avoid throwing garbage into the sea, of looking after beauty and life, keeping the environment clean. In addition, we show people one needn’t sit around and wait for “tasks” to be handed down from above, that one can work independently and do what one considers to be necessary and just.

We must acquire the habit of making our own decisions. Some people will get the message and will likely stop and think before dirtying the city. Perhaps, they will educate their children in this connection, or become excited about the prospect of leading more independent lives. Of course, there will be others who won’t make any effort to change their lifestyles and our work will not bring any changes to their lives. As for us, we will continue to try and improve our surroundings and to have an impact on people’s mentalities.

03-muy-sucio   Original story by Jimmy Roque Martínez for www.havanatimes.org

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