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Hurricane Irma

Gaviota bars its workers from discussing the situation at the Cayo Santa María

'We were told, in a meeting with all the directors and staff, that misfortunes are not to be talked about,' says an employee.

Santa Clara

With regards to the passage of Hurricane Irma along Cuba's coasts, Raúl Castro promised that its impact on tourist destinations on the island would be resolved by the high season, which begins in November.

The official website Cubadebate reported, in an article on September 24, that the country is prepared to tackle the season and, according to the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, "all hotel facilities will be operational," including those at the Cayo Santa María.

From this tourist location, located in the north-central area of the Island, there is hardly any official information. Sources working at the facilities there, who asked to remain anonymous, told DIARIO DE CUBA that, except for the Meliá Las Dunas (popularly dubbed the Dunas 3-4), the remaining 11 hotels suffered severe damage.

Shortly after the passage of Hurricane Irma, Gaviota, attached to the military consortium GAESA, summoned its workers to join the reconstruction work. Those who showed up, pressured by the fear of losing their permanent positions, were transferred by catamaran for two and a half hours, from Caibarién to the cay. The gardeners at each facility are those pulling the most weight in the collection of debris, while the rest of the staff is used to build walls, replace cables, pipes, etc., sources said.

Civil Defense personnel in the province reported a total of 4,000 homes suffering total roof loss in the municipality of Caibarién. However, "the human and material capital of the country" is focused, for the time being, on restoring tourist destinations. It is entirely possible, albeit paradoxical, for a Gaviota Seagull worker to end up repairing the roof of a bungalow, after having lost his own home.

"We are prohibited from using cell phones inside or around the hotel. We have to leave them at the entrance. We were told, in a meeting with all the directors and staff, that 'misfortunes are not to be talked about,' that the world does not need to know the real situation of the cay. Because, in the long run, that could affect not only the country, but also everyone's wallet," said a worker in the lobby/bar.

"Human Resources sent me an SMS with the catamaran schedule, but everyone knows who they need to call upon. I’m just a simple waiter. I don't have a permanent position. I'm just starting out. I don't have much to lose. Those who go, do not do so voluntarily, or out of solidarity. There are very valuable locations at the hotel: Reception, the lobby bars, the poolside bars and beach bars, some fixed positions, bartenders, who get huge tips, and they must secure their jobs," explained another source.

It is assumed that on November 15 at least five hotels will open, operating at half capacity. This affects, in turn, the personnel that they employ.

"What I'm still worried about is the transportation of the staff. They are demanding that almost all the workers be there, but there's no way to transport us," said the lobby/bar worker.

"The causeway has some very damaged areas. The catamaran is not enough, and they've begun to use buses for the staff. The most dangerous section is the Puente de Los Barcos (bridge), which was separated from the rest of the road. A brigade placed a pair of aluminum sheets to connect it again, to cover the gap. And the workers are crossing on that!"

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