Private transportation vans in Cuba have become a means, which although have somewhat eased the precarious transport situation, that is one of the most dangerous, due to the high speeds at which drivers drive, passengers supersaturating and defective technical condition of many of these vehicles.
A few years ago, just few of these vans were seen in Havana. They have, from the beginning, been a means of transport rather in the interior of the country, for interprovincial travel. Nowadays many of them have even the same routes of state buses in the capital, covering usually 5 pesos ($ 0.20), cheaper than the ¨almendrones¨ (ancient American cars used as taxis) which prices range from 10 to 20 pesos.
These vans and also trucks are allowed to carry as many passengers as seats to have. But drivers and conductors transport people as cows, after collecting as many as there are in the street. If you are too greedy, as we shall see, you will also end up with nothing this time.
On April 26, 2012, around 7 am, Bibi got on one of those private trucks carrying passengers from Artemisa to Havana. Like most students, she could not afford a taxi covering 30 pesos to go to college. She and Lucia, a friend of the classroom, went together by paying 10 pesos each.
Bibi and Lucía got seats. In Artemisa, the truck was not as crowded. But when it reached Guanajay, before taking the highway to El Lido, in Havana, many people got on, more than what the vehicle could transport.
From here the story is told by Bibi, who still bears a scar on her forehead due to a 37 stitches wound, sutured at the Military Hospital, in Havana.
“I can hardly remember the part of the accident as such, because it was very strange, I suddenly felt like a squealing and when I opened my eyes and saw myself on the air. Then a heavy blow and everyone was on top of me.
“When the truck ended up spinning and fell on the grass at the side of the road, my hair was tangled on the roof and I could not leave. I was half asleep, and saw people coming out and screaming. The first thing I did was looking at my hands, were full of blood, then I touched my forehead and felt a hole.
“I began to despair myself, I wanted to get out of there, but I could not because I had my hair locked. A boy told me not to worry, that he would help me. He found a knife and cut my hair. When I came out, people looked at me and said: “Oh, poor girl, look how her forehead is.”
“Lucia and I stood in the road and she asked for help to the first car she saw. In Guanajay hospital they just made me an X-ray and gave me an IV. They could not suturate there, because I had to be seen by a specialist. Then they sent me to Havana. I was in a room of the Military Hospital for almost two hours. They got me 37 stitches. “
“There were seconds that seemed like hours. After the accident I spent days having nightmares and I kept thinking that I had almost died. Another girl of Artemis ended with a wound in the head much bigger than mine. Even then she had problems with dizziness, and she an ear affected; luckily, no children or pregnant came in the truck. “
“Thank God the driver was not going so fast, otherwise many of us would have died. The driver was not hurt, it was proved it was a technical malfunction, something with the steerwheel, I’m not sure … and absolutely nothing happened to him, I think he was not even fined, but I am not sure. “
“After that day, it has not been easy to me to get on a van again. In fact, it has been difficult to get on any car. I have not ever fallen asleep in a car and if I can I avoid the trucks “.