SURGIDERO DE BATABANO, Cuba -- Swamped by chest-high flooding caused by recent hurricanes, the humble residents of this desolate fishing village on Cuba's southern coast found one small cause for celebration recently: homemade ice cream.
On a clattering, old metal contraption rigged up in a drab concrete compound, Marlen Vargas López, a smiling soul with close-cropped hair, whipped up a fresh batch and pulled a lever to fill cone after cone with chocolate, the flavor of the day. The ice-cream treat was about all there was for sale at El Recreo, one of the few shops open in the dismal location south of Havana.
While the flooding from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike has receded, filthy pools of stagnant water still lined the streets in front of the wood shack homes on a recent afternoon, giving off a stench. The shanties were scarcely habitable before the western region of Cuba -- from the Gulf of Batabanó to the agriculture-rich province of Pinar del Río -- was pummeled by back-to-back hurricanes within eight days beginning Aug. 30. Now, the homes are musty, and many roofs leak when it rains.
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