Castro's idealized socialist neighbourhood faces struggles after his death
Nick Wells, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, November 29, 2016 10:00PM EST
As Cubans mourn the death of Fidel Castro, residents of a community once envisioned as the Communist neighbourhood of the future are struggling with decaying buildings and life beyond the leader.
The district of Alamar, located on the edge of Havana, was built in 1975 by Communist party members. The homes are identical, and the city has no street names, just zones and numbers.
Groups of residents, called micro-brigades, built their homes by hand.
Castro envisioned the community as embodying socialist ideals, where everyone was equal.
"I will never forget Fidel," says resident Antonio Il Escandel, through a translator. "He gave me the opportunity to live here. Before that, I was poor. I had nothing."
However, the area struggled as the U.S. embargo on Cuba took hold and Castro's notorious failed 1970 sugar harvest wreaked economic havoc. Residents say plans for transportation throughout the city, as well as plans for community centres, were dropped as Cuba's economy tanked.
A large field in the middle of the neighbourhood had been set aside for a hospital and a sports centre, but as Cuba's economy continued to struggle, it was given to farmers so residents could survive.
Francisco Paneca, an artist whose family fought in the Cuban revolution, says he's seeing lots of young Cubans looking to leave the area, including his own son.
His daughter has already left, moving with her husband to Montreal.
He admits the neighbourhood is becoming lonely, but despite encouragement from his daughter to join his family in Montreal he refuses to leave the home he built in the community.
Paneca says the only way he'll leave Alamar will be when he's dead, reaffirming his commitment to the once-idealized socialist community.
With a report from CTV’s Genevieve Beauchemin in Alamar