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    Those Pools Aren’t for the People

    “Those Pools Aren’t for the People” / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernández
    Posted on August 16, 2015

    14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernández, Pinar del Río, 13 August 2015 — “New
    movies, lots of ice cream, and a good pool,” is how a resident of Pinar
    del Río summarized his wishes for this school vacation. His second wish
    was granted at the local Coppélia ice cream shop, but his hometown has a
    sad record otherwise, counting only one open cinema, and no functioning

    Pinar del Río’s eleven pools are either dilapidated or are under some
    sort of renovation keeping them closed to the public. In spite of it
    being a particularly warm summer, with temperatures exceeding 97ºF, the
    people of Pinar del Río have to make do with fans in order to cool off a
    bit. Or they make do like Yoankys and Maykel, who use “a hose in the
    backyard” when the heat becomes unbearable. They used to able to take
    dives at the pool of the Pinar del Río Hotel after paying admission in
    CUC’s, but that option does not even exist anymore.

    “This shows a lack of respect,” opined Yoaknys, who added that in the
    Galiano and Mijares Districts, adjacent to the Pedro Téllez Vocational
    School’s pool, the discontent is even greater. “People see the
    infrastructure is there, but we need the will to make it work.” That
    blue, waterless, and dilapidated rectangle is an eyesore for anyone who
    takes a peek at the school’s sports facilities.

    Orestes, a longtime neighborhood resident who works on a government pig
    farm, said he could care less if there is a pool or not, but “the kids
    are sweltering, and we don’t even have a lagoon with water.” This man,
    who has always lived in the area, recalled that “the only recreation
    around here used to be the Vocational School’s pool, but since they
    didn’t change the water, they had to close it.”

    Mariela, a housewife who moved to the neighborhood only two years ago,
    blamed the empty pool on the drought. “It would be a scandal if we had a
    pool full of water while we’re having such a hard time filling our water
    tanks.” Pinar del Río Province is facing the lowest precipitation in
    half a century. Its reservoirs are at a little more than 30% of total
    capacity, and seven are at critically low levels. Mariela added: “We
    can’t waste water for recreation when we barely have enough to wash
    dishes or bathe.”

    Jorge, the custodian in charge of the Vocational School’s grounds said
    that “(the Ministry of) Public Health ordered the pool closed because it
    was a mosquito breeding ground.” Together with the breakdown of pumping
    and water treatment systems, chlorine shortages are one of the causes
    that most often works against the safety of pool water throughout Cuba.

    “This had turned into a health problem,” explained Mariela, who
    remembered that several “youngsters got sick from fungus, skin
    infections, and otitis in that place,” and said she was “relieved they
    drained the water, because it was a constant source of diseases.”

    In her opinion, “people aren’t accustomed to pools. They don’t even
    shower before getting in, and they urinate or eat while in the water.
    And that’s not counting all those who in spite of having an infected
    wounds on their bodies, still dive in.”

    However, Antonio Vázquez, a staffer of the city’s Ministry of Education,
    refused to accept that closing the pools is the way to solve health
    problems. “We want our children to learn how to swim, to play sports,
    and to spend their free time on wholesome recreation…but we have ten
    pools closed in this city!” he exclaimed in frustration.

    Mr. Vázquez explained that “pools in the city of Pinar del Río fall
    under the jurisdiction of several government entities.” According to
    this government employee, the Vocational School’s pool is run by the
    Education Ministry, “but it was ordered closed by Public Health, because
    with the drought, they weren’t able to change the water, and after a
    month, it was polluted.”

    A waiter at the Pinar del Río Hotel explained to 14ymedio that the
    closure of their pool was due to remodeling, “but it’s going to end up
    looking very nice. We’re opening it on August 13th *, with a ten CUC
    admission, of which eight covers food and drinks.” The hotel employee
    stressed “they had to close it, because it was in a very bad sate, but
    now it’s going to be perfect. We felt bad for the public, but it had to
    be closed.”

    Like a vanquished giant, the Olympic-size pool at the Nancy Uranga
    Physical Education College, is deserted and waterless. “We had to empty
    it,” recalled the college’s custodian “because youngsters would show up
    with alcohol and knives, and then things would get bad. The grounds are
    under police surveillance, but the problem did not go away.” The
    custodian then explained, “The problem with the diving pool is another
    story. That one is contaminated.” Its green water covered with a layer
    of litter confirmed the custodian’s words.

    Far from there, weeds cover the entrance path to the Frederick Engels
    Vocational School, inaugurated by Fidel Castro. It has been almost five
    years since any students have been able to submerge themselves in its
    two pools, which were once its source of pride. “No one gives a hoot
    about this. They were ruined because of the lack of upkeep,” complained
    an employee. The pool at the Medical Sciences Department is in a similar

    The Ormani Arenado Sports School has become the last hope for the
    desperate swimmer. However, two of the three pools have not been filled
    for months, and the Olympic-size pool overflows with a liquid covered by
    a green film that reeks terribly.

    In contrast with these bleak scenarios, the Central Home of the
    Revolutionary Armed Forces, located on the Central Highway, at the
    outskirts of the city, showcases a well-maintained pool, but it is
    reserved for the members of the military. The Ministry of the Interior’s
    Villa Guamá, located on the 4th kilometer (2.5 mile) mark of the highway
    to Viñales, is another one of the privileged locales enjoying the relief
    of a functioning and clean pool.

    “But those pools aren’t for the people,” protested a frustrated Yoansky,
    the young man who tries beating the heat by dousing himself with a hose
    in his backyard. “It’s as if they didn’t even exist.”

    *Translator’s note: August 13 is Fidel Castro’s birthday and the day is
    often marked by “special” events such as this.

    Translated by José Badué

    Source: “Those Pools Aren’t for the People” / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos
    Fernández | Translating Cuba –

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