The Iron Bridge

The Iron Bridge is an old and deteriorated metal structure that represents another era. Though simple and discreet, it is considered one of the notable achievements of Cuban engineering. The bridge was built to be drawn aside to allow the passage of small and medium-sized boats. Quite honestly, it always scares me, especially when I’m riding my bike as there is no grip and it feels like skating on ice. Although this is really geographically in the centre of the city straddling the two smart residential areas of Vedado and Miramar, the bridge itself seems to occupy its own time and space, to take on its own personality. This is the story of this bridge.

Contrary to the two tunnels (the Línea and 5th Ave tunnels) that also connect these two districts, the iron bridge allows pedestrians and bicycles, as well as motorcycles and light vehicles. The scenery could be interesting, but the waste that accumulates on the banks of the river challenges its potential beauty. The bridge delimits the fishing base at the mouth of the river, so small boats are constantly coming in and out.. The fishing base also has a small shipyard for the repair of boats. A regular sight is a number of fishermen trying their luck at catching the few fish that I suppose live in the murky waters. It’s really hard to imagine that anything can come out alive from this blanket of mud and dirt.

In the 1990s, during the Special Period, the bridge was revitalized, as the surrounding areas were rapidly occupied by people making money selling food and other miscellaneous articles. Bicycles became one of the most important means of transportation in those days and the bridge was always crowded. This was depicted in the film Madagascar by the renowned Cuban filmmaker Fernando Pérez in a scene where a mass of cyclists are seen going and coming across the bridge.

Nowadays, the bridge is avoided by motorcyclists and drivers of big cars for fear of its collapse. Over the years, the bridge has deteriorated before the eyes of the many Habaneros who cross it every day or at least occasionally. Nobody knows for sure how much longer it will manage to support the heavy load of vehicles—and people—who use it on a daily basis. For over 20 years, this metal structure has been crying out for help. Once known as the “tram bridge,” for obvious reasons, today it is the forgotten child of Cuban engineering.

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