I got caught peering down this long dark corridor from the sidewalk. He was sitting across the narrow street trying to sell some clothes. All he said was “come with me” or some such Spanish phrase. I followed him down the corridor until it opened up into a courtyard. He pointed to one of the doors at the top of the two sets of stairs and said “my house”. He wanted to show me where he lived, although we did not enter his dwelling. I also saw where his neighbors lived below and beside him, behind the maze of walls and doors that defined their own living space.
I never got his name.
The cold hard truth is:
At least 7 adults use this toilet and shower stall.
There is no water here.
They carry their own water to bathe.
They carry their own water to flush.
Actually, most residents use a five gallon bucket in their own space and then use the toilet as no more than a hole in the ground.
Eriberto is 56 years old and works as a laborer. He earns the equivalent of about 14 USD/ month.
Eriberto and his wife live in a space created by dividing Regla’s space horizontally and making two rooms out of one. To enter Eriberto’s home one has to climb stairs that look more like a ship’s ladder. The trick is to enter on your knees because the doorway is only one meter high. In fact, one has to start crawling even before reaching the top of the stairs.
Eriberto makes it look easy. It’s not.
The ceiling height is only about six feet.
Here one can see the top half of what used to be a huge window.
Well worn flooring.
Tanya is 45 years old. She and Michel live next to Regla. Neither has a job. The only work in old Havana is in the tourist industry and one needs connections to get hired.
Michel lugs drinking water to the third floor for Tanya and some of their neighbors.
Their Kitchen area.
Some of their possessions.
A table and a bed.
Cheap cigarettes and cheap rum help pass the days.
Regla is 83 years old and lives alone.
The same broken and dirty marble staircase leads to her home a few doors away from Ondina.
Regla greets me at the door.
She lives in one room with no running water. The large blue barrel is filled with a hose at night when people pump water from the street. The water is used to bathe and to flush the toilet.
The kitchen does have a gas burner to cook on, but Regla has to pay the gas bill every month.
Everything she owns is in this one room.
One thing most cannot do without is a fan to keep the stagnant, sweltering air moving.