Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

October 28, 1998, Cuba Free Press.


HAVANA It has been proven that the Holland buses are outstanding for the transport of passengers i.e., in Holland but not on this island.

It should be made clear that these buses are of unquestionable quality. They are useful not only in wintry territories but also in countries where the managers of bus companies have common sense and respect for the human condition. These are traits not common here.

When I broke in one of the buses that recently arrived from Holland, it appeared very comfortable and especially opportune given that a good number of these buses were placed in service, alleviating the brutal crisis in transportation. On this occasion the number of passengers was limited, thus avoiding the overloading of the bus, so I had the luck of even being able to get a seat.

Granted, it was winter on the island and we were having a cold wave - one of those that makes Cubans shiver - all across the western region.

I felt as if I were no longer in Cuba but somewhere in Holland. Then suddenly I noticed that the windows were sealed - airproof. It was enough to make me sit up and wonder what might happen during the summer season.

My simple inspection also detected the air conditioning system and I was overwhelmed by an idiotic optimism, perhaps brought on by the exceptional comfort which I felt on my first voyage. I pondered the efficient apparatus for ventilation installed in the vehicle.

The cold front gave way to a fresh cool front outside the Holland bus.

On the next, a warmer trip, the peoples commentaries were heard throughout the bus, with the following noted: "Who might be the brainy buyers of these buses?" "Whoever bought this one traveled by airline but never in buses." "They say that they are going to replace these sealed windows with those that can be opened, but since nothing they do ever turns out right, that wont happen for several summers."

And so on. But the words that brought goosebumps to everyone within hearing and put an end to the discussion were: "Wait till summer gets here!"

But the cold fronts were frequent and the warm waves attenuated, for awhile. Then summer hit and the Holland bus (omnibus) suddenly became converted into a miserable wagon (guagua) as we Cubans call the state collective vehicles of public transport. Say the word guagua (pronounced wa wa) and you say everything. Its well known as a means of disgracing the activities of humanity, multiplying individualism by zero and fomenting discord.

To travel in these "new" buses now is like submitting involuntarily to a bath of steam while wearing your clothing in a packed crowd, like sardines in a can. Naturally, now all that remains of the air conditioners are the airless vents. Nobody has ever found out what happened to those air conditioners. But some of the passengers swore that the buses never had them and that way the government got them cheaper.

Others commented that they could be bought with enough US dollars in the "shopin" (the Cuban word for "shopping," meaning in stores where only dollars are accepted). And some said that the air conditioners had been appropriated by the upper class for installation in their own private automobiles.

The heat was so bad that some of the passengers always became exhausted and faint and had to leave the bus before it reached their stops.


The popular complaints grew harsher about the Transportation Ministry and even the government itself. I dont know whether that is what brought about the removal of some of the hermetically sealed windows and their replacement with sliding glass panels.

I do wonder how it happened that when the new sliding glass panels were installed they were placed only halfway along the length of each bus. So now the bus drivers and fare collectors complain as much as anybody else while the passengers crowd toward the places where the air enters, blocking any passage of air or people toward the back, toward what we on the island have always called "the kitchen."

Only with elbowing, smashed feet, pushes and quarrels from one end of the bus to the other are the human knots around the windows broken and the bus become completely stuffed. Tnen of course theres no fresh air for anyone.

But Cubans are of such a sturdy stock as to convert reverses into victory, especially after nearly 40 years of training, and now we can teach cosmonauts, submarine crews and undersea divers how to survive without air. And the same could be taught to the Mexican musical group called "ManAH."

Now you know the background of that brilliant and exiled Cuban athlete, Pipin, who won the world championship for underwater submersion without mechanical breathing equipment.

Ernestina Rosell, Cuba Free Press.

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