My Geographical Fatalism

Osmel Almaguer  

My house on the outskirts of Alamar.

For a good part of my childhood I blamed most of my problems on the location of my house, situated on the outskirts of the outlying Havana neighborhood of Alamar.  Later, influenced by the opinions of friends who said they felt like it was a kind of paradise, I wound up developing something of affection for that little place.

Nevertheless my unease didn’t take long to reappear after I received an offer to swap* the house for someone else’s.  Though nothing ever came of the proposal, what had begun pouring into my mind were tons of reasons for wanting to move to a more urban environment.  There would of course be the racket and smog characteristic of city life, but there was also the idea of a corner bodega store, the polyclinic down the block, a nearby bus stop, etc. – each much closer.

The desire soon turned into an obsession.  But time passed and I still hadn’t achieved my objective, especially because I was in a situation that depended on my father.

It turns out that the land surrounding my house is in his name, which is why it’s not possible for me to swap property with anybody – not unless he grants me at least a strip of property.  Think about it:  Who would ever consider moving from the city to a farm house that doesn’t have yard space around it?

Up to now my only hope has been for a double swap; this would be where some family that had two apartments and wanted a single property would swap for our two houses with the surrounding land.

The big problem has been the deterioration of our houses, since we haven’t had the money to keep them up.  Plus, my father isn’t as hot on the idea of exchanging his home as I am.

Fortunately, he’s come to realize that time keeps moving on and that I’m feeling increasingly isolated in a place so distant from basic amenities, in addition to being so removed from my friends and other young people who I can relate to.

After a pretty serious to-the-point conversation — which turned out contrary to what had happened up until then, where we always ended up arguing — he finally agreed to give me a piece of land so that I could make a swap.

* This type of transaction is known in Cuba as a “permuta” (an exchange or swap). Since 1959 it has been practically the only option we Cubans have had for changing apartments or houses. (For more on this, you might want to read The Fog around House Swaps in Cuba)