Daily Scenes in My Havana Home

Irina Pino

Part of living room of my apartment.

HAVANA TIMES — My brother has moved into my apartment. Differences with his partner led to a breakup, and he asked to stay at my place temporarily.

This happened several months ago. At first, I thought he would work it out, renting out a place or finding a friend’s to stay at. But he’s still here, and will be so indefinitely, it seems.

Even though we’ve always had our differences, I’ve managed to put up with him, having as much contact with him as is absolutely necessary. Ultimately, however, I’ve ended up cooking for one more person; cleaning a home that’s now twice as dirty and, of course, I feel tired and want him to leave.

My mother says he is also her son, and this places me in an uncomfortable situation. If I ask him to leave, it could upset her.

When the home we were born in was demolished, the ensuing circumstances didn’t really affect him, because he was living with his wife at the time. Now the problem is worse, as the State hasn’t given us a temporary home to stay in, as tends to happen in cases like ours. Letters have been sent and received, and the bureaucrats continue to say the same thing: we have to wait. It’s been three years of patient waiting, and my brother still has nowhere to go. In the midst of all this, my habits are changing.

The curious thing is that scenarios we had put behind us and forgotten are reemerging, leaving me a bit worried. My mother, who used to cook for my brother and even wash his clothes, has begun doing it again, as she did before he got married. It hurts to see an old woman play the role of a loving servant for her 56-year-old son.

I ask myself: why is my brother still under my mother’s skirt?

I’ve spoken with her and she won’t listen to reason. The answer has to do with the upbringing parents gave their children, the fact people aren’t taught to be independent from an early age. This mistake, if not rectified, causes much damage to one’s personality later in life, creating individuals who are unable to maintain themselves materially and spiritually.

6 thoughts on “Daily Scenes in My Havana Home

  • You are becoming a substitute of the Cuban state for your brother. Your story shows how crippling deoendency can be.

  • Although not unique to Cuba, the socialist ethos breeds and reinforces idleness and a sense of dependency. The paranoia of the totalitarian state stifles personal initiative. Is it any wonder your brother has settled in you?

    The best thing you can do for yourself and your brother is to show him the door. With love. But do it.

  • Although I often disagree with Carlyle, I have to agree with him here. It is time to set limits for your brother, especially since it is your place. Insist that he begin to pitch in on the cooking and cleaning. Is he working? If so, he should be making a financial contribution, too. You don’t have to enforce all the conditions at once, but gradually “tighten the screws.”
    My adult (“bomerang”) son has twice returned home. On both occasions, after a month or so of “vacation,” I began to make expectations, like getting “up and out” by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., making his bed, finding a job by such-and-such a date, contributing $$$ for food by a certain date, etc. In both cases, he couldn’t abide by these expectations, and left. In both cases, however, setting these expectations provided to catalyst for him to subsequently find a job and rent an apartment, though the last time resulted in an end of communication between us. By contrast, my two daughters (by a subsequent marriage–one an adult, the other just going off to college now) are very responsible and concientious; in fact, the younger one is a great chef, makes many meals, and is constantly lecturing me on making better diet choices (and I am changing my bad habits).
    Likewise, the absence of a “Puritan work ethic” seems to be too common in Cuba. I know at least one couple where the husband was laid off more than two years ago, yet still doesn’t have a regular job. In the meantime, his wife “works her fingers to the bone,” (even taking work home with her), then does all the cleaning, shopping and cooking. No matter what the work situation is in Cuba, if you really want a job you can get one (and if it doesn’t pay enough, then, you can get a second job, and a third job, etc.). During my prime working years, in the 1960’s 1970’s, and especially in the 1980’s, 1990’s and the first decade of the new millenium, I often worked two, and even three, jobs, sometimes 80 and even 90 hours a week, grabbing only 4 hours of sleep here, three hours of sleep there, etc., in order to bring in enough $$$ and give my children a decent standard of living. Hence, I have little sympathy for those who laze around!

  • We got a name for a guy like your brother here – “boomerang kid”. They are the ones who left home and now have come back again 🙂

    It is very common to have a “boomerang kid”, these days. More and more parents are dealing with them, especially with their sons, who are usually the ones that move out, once divorced.

    I have to worn you though, once they move back, they tend to stay there, forever! Just think about it for a second, they are usually old and broke and grumpy (middle age man, with all money goes to the X-wife and his kids, with quite a few emotional baggage and little disposable income). Now they are living rent free, food-free, not to mention great cooking from Mom and most importantly, nobody tells him what he should or should not do.

    Finding a girlfriend for a guy like this, is usually a challenge too. Because woman will find a middle age, grumpy, broke man, often less attractive.

    So yes, Irina you’ve got a problem!

    The key person of this equation, is your mom. You need to let her realize that she can not take care of him forever and it is very critical to make sure he is back on his own feet before she is on her way to heaven. Tough love sometime is needed.

    The second key person is you! Yes my friend, you need to become the leader of your family. If you are supporting the family financially, you should be the one who make financial decisions for the family. You can give him time to adjust but there will be a time when he will have to pay rent and pay for his food and the price will only go up, till he is better off staying somewhere else.

    I wish you luck!

  • Irina I am also 56 and my mother now lives with me. I have no other family and she has no where else to go. It is very difficult at times for now I am sort of single for the time being. Though I worry if my new friend might become permanent will she wish my mother to still be here in my house? I have to also do all of the work, cooking cleaning etc. And I cannot play my music for it is too loud. And now I cannot cook my food for it is too spicy… She does not like my cat and I cannot even go away for she will not put up with being here alone. Irina I do understand how you must feel… My suggestion is to tell your brother to go and live with his mother, and take care of her… Oh to wake up in the morning and walk around naked again… My cat never minded… Hahaha.

  • Irina it takes courage to write an article like yours. There are in my view several factors involved.
    Firstly, Cuban men tend to be macho, they do not understand the need for equality in marriage and sharing the responsiblity of bringing up children. It is regarded as normal for men to sit and watch television or to play chess or dominoes while the woman of the house having worked all day, prepares the meals, washes the clothes, cleans the house and tends to the needs of the children. Not all societies are similar.
    Secondly, the Socialismo system meant that additional houses were not constructed and three or four generations have to share a two bedroomed home. The men when they find a suitable lover, go and live in the lovers home and again take no responsibility.
    Thirdly, many Cuban men have never experienced having to work a five day eight hours per day week. Although a consequence of the Socialismo system within the Fidel Castro Ruz Constitution: “Work is a right and a duty”, many men assume that idling their time away in a non-productive manner is normality and their right.
    In the capitalist world it was the traditional view that the man or men of the household was/were the breadwinner(s).
    In my opinion, your brother is lazy and will live his easy life as long as the women of the family subject themselves to his behaviour.
    Give him four weeks to find somewhere else and somebody else to live and support him – then kick him out!

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