News and Facts about Cuba

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 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 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 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 ,
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 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 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 . 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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