Neighbors in Cuba

Regina Cano

Photo from Alamar by Caridad.

Living with other people in a community on this island always involves patience, consideration, respect and understanding, qualities that are difficult to maintain where there are mixed social groups with diverging interests.

Coexistence in Cuba these days is difficult even with one’s own family, with our varying characteristics, needs and circumstances. Therefore, it’s easy to imagine how tricky relationships can be between people who must live “wall to wall” (as some comedians here say).

Your neighbor may want to throw out their trash close to your property or wash their balcony at the expense of you on the floor below.

They might let their dog run around free, eating whatever it finds, destroying your yard, craping in front of your door or eating your pet’s food.

Your neighbor might propose building an addition to their home that encroaches on your property or just take what’s not theirs.

Such friction can lead to envy, hatred or acts of revenge carried out with one’s own hands, which in turn can lead to arguments full of offensive words, lots of shouting, threats and fighting between individuals or whole families.

In the suburbs of Havana, respect is established by “metiendo el pie” (“putting one’s foot down,” meaning here to exert one’s will by force).

There are no laws or police involved because, besides there being not enough cops (they have to be imported into the capital from the provinces), people in these places consider it dishonorable for the police to be called into disputes like this. That’s something they just don’t like.

Thus, someone who has developed their intellect more or has formed a broader worldview runs the risk of running into someone else who “puts their foot down” and overpowers them by force. Being a “tough guy/gal” in a neighborhood entails dedicating time to maintaining that status. Under such circumstances, reason, justice and dialogue are useless; differences are settled with blows.

To maintain the boundaries of your home in a neighborhood where the apartment buildings are crowded together and half falling down due to the way they were built, is in itself a major problem, and in my neighborhood people have gotten used to violating those boundaries.

When the community where I live was first built (it’s only about 15 years old), some rights were defended with a machete in hand. Even today, statements like “this waterline is mine,” or “my backyard comes up to here” or “this roof is ours” remain valid in these situations.

This is the position adopted by my neighbor, who with his abusive behavior is constantly attempting to expropriate my rights only because of my misfortune of living next to him. It will continue to take effort on my part to put up with him, but I do not intend to sacrifice my way of life and become like him.

Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

Regina Cano has 191 posts and counting. See all posts by Regina Cano