“Look, I worked there!” is the cry of Carlos Cabrera Peña, who has worked in the construction sector and as a carpenter with the Metal Productions Company (Epromap) for decades, as he watches images on the TV or reads the newspapers in the company of a neighbor or friend.
This expression sums up his days spent working intensely under the hot sun preparing for the Pope’s visit. The fatigue resulting from hours of interrupted sleep is offset by the recognition – in the limited time or space that can be devoted to it in any report – of having been useful, “to have helped to ensure something went well.”
Through luck or due to fate, but no doubt “a treasured privilege,” Cabrera Peña is the only one of this group of everyday heroes to have worked on the construction of the venues for the visits of three popes to Cuba.
The third visit this September is fast approaching, with high expectations and challenging days ahead for those working in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución.
Alberto Cuéllar and Rodney Fidalgo — both proud of having worked on the podiums for the mass offered by Pope Benedict XVI and the current for Pope Francis’ visit – tell of their recent endeavors. “At seven in the morning we are here working, from Monday to Saturday for almost 12 hours in which we barely stop for lunch,” Rodney tells Granma.
A few dozen meters from the site, “fully” engaged in his work so as not to “miss anything,” Julio Estrada Torres, in charge of the paneling work, emphasizes the individual and collective commitment of these workers. His words are echoed by Sergio E. Rodríguez, in charge of quality assurance.
“It’s the pride of knowing you have been taken into account that makes you more committed,” Yasmani Portillo, the youngest worker, states, who impressed with his skills during the training period and was chosen for this task as lead assembler at the age of just 20.
All this, plus the quality of the works, impact on the image of the city in general, and on the reputation of a company that enjoys status as a national example.
These are the voices of those who have the responsibility of getting everything ready and monitoring the quality and the “precision” of every detail, and who agreed to a brief interview with Granma to corroborate the progress of preparations, with the sound of drills, saws and hammers in the background.
There are five areas under construction to host Pope Francis: the main podium from where the Pope will celebrate mass, and the sacristy located behind this first space; the choir stand and two others reserved for accredited press, located to the sides of the podium, each with a capacity for 200 journalists, explain Salvador Prats Martínez and architect Luis Manuel Pérez Coello, Epromap director general and director of operations, respectively.
The bulk of the tasks have been completed, and what should be a worthy setting for the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Head of State of Vatican City, the first Pope of American origin, can already be made out.
These 50 men, working over 39 days, are all devoted to a common goal: that of ensuring the most important of Cuban squares in at its best in the lead up to this long-awaited visit.
A WARM WELCOME AWAITS POPE FRANCIS IN HOLGUÍN
Since the Pope’s visit was officially confirmed for September 21, preparation works have been non-stop in Holguín.
Construction and maintenance works have been carried out both in the Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Calixto García, where Pope Francis will celebrate mass, as well as at other sites he is due to visit in the city.
Granma toured the square and noted the progress of the works, with the assembly of metal structures due to be completed before the end of this month to allow for further decoration, according to information provided by engineer Robiel Pérez Gutiérrez, head of production at the UEB Nicaro, attached to the Industrial Works Construction Enterprise No.9 of Holguín.
The progress on the podium for the mass is notable, with a stage built using laminated steel sheets. Covering 504 square meters it offers enough space for the Pope and the concelebrants to conduct the planned solemn ceremony eagerly awaited by the population.
Designed by specialists of the Proyectos Vértice Company, who took into account the recommendations of religious authorities, the fully roofed stage will include a parapet to the front and white and blue areas at the sides, evoking the sea where the El Cobre Virgin of Charity was found.
The two podiums reserved for the press are also visible, each with four levels and measuring 87 square meters, as well as that designated for the choir of 160 people who will sing Cuban songs specifically chosen for the occasion.
Carlos Antonio Benibelis Fonseca, in charge of the works, explained that it is a serious task. “We work in two shifts. One from seven in the morning until seven at night, when the other shift arrives and works until three in the morning. It was necessary to work like this to complete the welding work, defined as the most important task.”
In his view, the workers directly involved in construction works and those involved in related tasks have shown great interest and professionalism as they recognize the importance of Pope Francis’ visit both for Cuban society and the world.