A Place to Live

By Francisco Castro

Park in Havana’s Vedado district.  photo: Caridad
Park in Havana’s Vedado district. photo: Caridad

Just one month after having moved into an apartment close to the more central Vedado neighborhood, Ana María and I are now walking around Havana like two homeless people. We’re still fruitlessly looking to rent something that comes even close to our dreams.

Here, like in the rest of the world, the law of the jungle exerts itself, and never did we feel as close to being its victims as when we lost our apartment. The two women who had asked us to split the rent with them told us that another renter had edged us out of the unit. This individual had offered the property owner the full amount up front, which meant that the four of us would all have to give up the place.

It is painful to read the well-known 1953 defense statement of the young lawyer Fidel Castro, made during the trial of the assailants of the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and the Carlos Manuel of Cespedes Garrison in Bayamo. Those events triggered the last stage of the fight for national liberation, and his statement later became the Moncada program of struggle.

It is painful to read it, as I said, and to note that the housing problem that Fidel spoke about then continues to exist-though not with the same characteristics- despite the fact that in the first years of the Revolution it was proclaimed that the Moncada program had been accomplished. That’s to say, solutions had been found to all the problems alluded to in Fidel’s History Will Absolve Me, the title of the book in which the well-known defense statement was published.

I say that it’s painful because, in fact, it’s not true. Raúl Castro, the current Cuban president, has in fact admitted it forthrightly, and I’m suffering the direct consequences at this very moment.

There are absurdities here, such as not being able to legally work in Havana because I don’t have a legal address in the capital; or having to spend a night in a police station because some night watchman requested my identity card, only to find that mine showed the address of a provincial hometown.

Is it impossible, too expensive, or unimaginable for there to exist apartments rented out by the government? Why do future university graduates such as me have to scour the city in search of an illegal rental unit for which I’ll have to spend all the money I earn? Why do we have to discredit ourselves in front of ourselves?

For the time being, Ana María and I still have a dorm room at the art school, but in less than three months, we will join the enormous army of Cuban young people who have recently graduated from the university, and automatically we’ll be in the street if we don’t find a place to live before then.

One thought on “A Place to Live

  • Just remember that U.S. imperialism shares the largest portion of the blame for the failure of your revolution to provide even the most basic of resources to the citizens of Cuba. Of course, Imperialism can’t take all of the blame. Certainly, resources going into the tourist industry in Cuba should instead be going into public housing, for instance — damn any lost ‘hard currency” because of that. And it’s always been my contention that one of the hugest failings of the Western working-class has been its refusal to even conceive of ploughing its reserve of savings into investing in the socialist countries — instead allowing the bourgeoisie to in fact steal this money for themselves, or ‘invest’ it in bloody imperialist ventures and naked profiteering.

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