The New Neighbor

Irina Echarry

Worker has lunch on the job repairing the neighbor's apartment. Photo - Irina Echarry

Since I was three years old, I’ve lived here in the same apartment, on the top floor of the building.  The location isn’t so bad inside the urbanistic monotony of the Alamar projects.  There’s a factory on one corner, a bus terminal on the other, lots of flowers, and of course other buildings.

My building has 20 apartments and was opened in 1973; that’s to say, several years ago.  The problem is that it’s never been repaired.  Deterioration has been evident in its living spaces for a good while.  The façade is paint-chipped and pieces of concrete have fallen off some of the balconies; but those aren’t the worst characteristics of the property.

The worst things are the water leaks.  For a long time I’ve seen water running through the building after it falls from the sky in the rainy season, during hurricanes or in the course of simple winter cloudbursts.

The railing that fences in the rooftop is broken and needs to be repaired by a professional builder, not only due to the detail of the work but also for the materials that it requires.  Futilely trying to solve the problem, my mother was bounced from office to office.  She’s also written letters to a number of different institutions, but none of this has resulted in anything.  Meanwhile the roof of our apartment continues to hang in the balance.

Recently an architect from the Housing Department visited us and determined that it was necessary to demolish the railing, because simple repairs wouldn’t make sense.  I immediately thought of the consequences of this for my family if there were no guarantees of reconstructing this part of the roof.

Now I no longer worry about it so much because I finally realized that demolition won’t happen soon either.

Several months ago a new resident moved into the building.  At once the speculation began: “He has to be a manager,” “The Party must need him in the municipality, that’s why they gave him an apartment here,” “They say he’s going to take care of some of the problems,” and on and on… Popular imagination in the building went wild.

Up to now that neighbor hasn’t said anything about changes to the building as a whole.  He did have a crew come to his apartment though, and from what people say they renovated everything down to the floors; everything was made new.

He had big tanks installed to store water (from time to time we have periods when little water is pumped into the main cistern).  Likewise, he had new rails put on his balcony and patio, and had the interior of the unit remodeled to his taste and comfort.

The work didn’t take long, but it was enough time for all us other residents to see the rubble being carted out and the new materials hauled in.  It would be nice if we could all do the same thing, but this is usually not so easy given the high costs of materials.  However, our new neighbor didn’t have to pay those prices; it seems the Party helped him out quite a bit.

They may have even done something to the part of the roof that relates to his unit.  Notwithstanding, this spring most of us will continue to watch water trickling down our walls as we think about how the Party could have helped all of us out —equally— without creating differences.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.