Photo: Habana del Este, by Marcelo Lopez
By Attorney Esperanza Rodriguez Bernal
At the Cuban Judicial Association, the cases with which we deal most frequently involve housing.
For a very long time this was the exclusive jurisdiction of the State, which was the only entity with the power to build (or to hand out the rare license to do so). The housing stock was not able to grow for many years and, as a result, we are now confronting dramatic consequences.
The problem is not confined to buildings and houses that collapse when it rains a little, due to a prolonged lack of maintenance. It also occurs when conflicts arise from several generations, or people of unequal levels of education and standards of behaviour, living under the same roof. These conflicts are multiplied exponentially by the fact that there are ever fewer units of housing available for everyone.
The first projects of which I am aware were built in Habana del Este, or “Pastorita,” as it is often referred to. These were constructed with care and by builders who knew what they were doing.
Another wave of construction activity occurred later, as I recall, in Alamar. In contrast to the earlier projects, however, these later constructions in general left much to be desired in terms of quality and urban character.
Alamar is in no way comparable to Habana del Este. The worst thing about this is that this implies a kind of devolution, since it would have been logical to assume that the first projects built just after the Revolution were surpassed by those built later, and not vice versa.
But on top of the physical problem of a shortage of housing, there is the fact that we are now a nation of more than eleven million inhabitants. It is awful to see grandchildren trying to commit their grandparents to an institution in order to be able to live by themselves. Or a recently divorced man trying to evict his ex-wife and children from their home, even when they have nowhere to go, because he is in a new relationship.
And in that struggle it is possible to see everything, from threats and domestic violence to bribery of housing officials to achieve a singular purpose – one’s own roof.
It’s been a long time since I heard a song by Los Van Van, whose chorus goes:
“No one loves anyone, loving is over. . .”
Someone told me that they no longer play this on the radio or television because it has been banned. I don’t know, but what does seem terrible to me is that we have lost, among so many other things, the love of our neighbors and above all of those closest to us.
Translated by mlk.
September 6 2012