Nicaro, the Shadow of Yesterday

Nicaro, the Shadow of Yesterday / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

More than two decades have passed since that TV series of pro-Castro

propaganda, produced by the studies of the (then) Channel 6. The plot

only showed the supposed exploitation into which North American

executives submerged Cuban workers of the Eastern nickel factory,

located in the exotic "Lengua de Pajaro" ('Bird Tongue'). Only then the

workers rebelled against the employers. Exclusively, in that era the

unions argued against their superiors. The soap opera had a "happy

ending" of nationalizing the factory and the creation of a truly

socialist company. But, what has happened since then?

Other than the information about the imminent shut down of the factory,

very little has been said of the inefficiency and failures in the system

of nickel ore extraction. The media, as a state secret, has tightly shut

their safe box and has said nothing about the existing mineral poverty.

The emission of gases and other toxic substances have turned Nicaro and

Moa into real walking hospitals. I don't have the exact statistic (only

the authorities know that) but carcinogenic symptoms, and lung

and liver disease due to drinking water are very common in that place,

just to cite a few examples of what is being most commented on among the


One face of the brand new socialist company which is not published at

all, is the destitution forced upon the locals of Nicaro, due to the

necessity of resources and a nearly total decadence of the municipal

structures en Mayari. With richness in its entrails, it is, however, a

town which depends on the government of its capital municipality. A

couple of blocks of buildings that seem like just that: blocks and not

dignified homes, they are buildings of a 60′s Soviet style of the past

century, it is the richness which was inherited by those who,

for five decades, made up the socialist ranks.

The statistics are sometimes difficult to hide and recent data released

by the Assembly of Popular Power in Mayari warn of the high level of

juvenile delinquency in the area, due to (according to the specialists)

the lack of recreational options left for youths. For more than twenty

years, the corporation supposedly guaranteed offering homes for their

workers, but with the passing of time those who began their working life

during the 60′s and 70′s started to enter retirement, and now it is easy

to see the disconnection: a series of marginal neighborhoods which are

under harassment time and time again by inspectors of the Municipal

Housing Procurement Unit and other supervising organizations.

In the year 2009, Kevin Vega Rios, a worker of that factory sent me his

concerns. He is a citizen of a marginal neighborhood, with no supporting

documents, and was practically forced to abandon his home. He was fined

various times until, due to his ailments and the countless denunciations

to the independent press, they stopped the threats against his small

family. There are other cases like his. There is a more hidden face,

which even with the definitive close of the factory will not come to

light. They will not even be part of the best investigative journalism.

We expect that what is coming, when they start to tear down the

scaffolds and the rust of nearly one century of existence, the

frameworks of human capital will also be abolished, the essence of a

small town which once believed itself to be happy, prosperous and efficient.

Translated by Raul G.

15 September 2012

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