Irina Pino

The house of my neighbors. On the left, my place.
The house of my neighbors. On the left, our old place.

HAVANA TIMES — I was born in Vedado, in a house we inherited from an aunt of mine who left for the US. In the early ‘60s, emigration intensified and as a result many houses remained empty. People who were living in poor conditions or who didn’t even have a house, broke into these houses and claimed to be their owners.

My mother’s sister told her that she was leaving, that she should take her son and move all of her things in because, if she didn’t, somebody else would take them. My mother moved into this house within two days; she took my older brother and my father, who was moving around the country in the army at the time, moved in later.

In my neighborhood, many people sneaked into empty houses. According to what my mother tells me, the head of the family of our next-door neighbors, managed to get in through a window. Then, he started moving pieces of furniture in through the front door. The furniture was top-notch and belonged to a mansion on the corner which had a lot of rooms, a garage and a beautiful garden with a fountain. This mansion had been, of course, locked shut.

Afterwards, these people became the snitches of the neighborhood. They were always watching those of us who didn’t openly show enthusiasm for the Revolution, who didn’t do night neighborhood watch or those who had family members living in the US. They got mixed up in gossip and did evil things. One of these scandals involved my own family. They began to say that we were leaving the country. That brought really bad consequences for us. People began to watch us out of the corner of their eyes and we had very few friends in the neighborhood. I only had two friends growing up: one was the daughter of an artist, and the other was the daughter of a doctor.

However, when these people (the snitches) first began to arrive here, they used to ask us to keep their perishables in our fridge; and we used to hand over litres of milk and meat through the window, at any time of day or night. My father, a real God-filled soul, used to go and inject one of this family’s members whenever they needed him to.

Over the years, some of the people from that family became professional workers: one daughter became a journalist and another two became soldiers (and married their respective soldier husbands). Their mother was nick-named “Radio Bemba”, because she entertained herself all day long nosing into the lives and fortunes of others, talking a lot of bullshit.

Their father, another charlatan, also used to spend his time digging up dirt on those who he didn’t get along with. His favorite pastime was looking young girls up and down and shouting dirty comments at them. Close friends of our CDR (neighborhood defense committee) presidents, these leading activists would help them gather information.

It’s interesting to note that, all of the successors to this “decent” family now form part of our country’s exodus: as all of them, without exception, have left the country. The only relative who stayed behind sold the house to a German. And her plan was to go and live with her son in Australia.


Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

One thought on “Houses and Families

  • Encouragement of “Snitches” has been a continuous policy of socialist/communist regimes and that is the declared purpose of the CDR. The Christian adage of “Love thy neighbour being translated into: Report thy neighbour!
    Every year without fail, the block president of the CDR has to make report to MININT about the activities of each person on his(there is a preponderance of males) block, all of which is then added to the computer retained record of each citizen.

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