Neighbors repair their homes and you suffer as if it were your own.

By Regina Cano

A Cuban man repairing his apartment. File Photo: EFE/
A Cuban man repairing his apartment. File Photo: EFE/

HAVANA TIMES — Nowadays, repairing or extending your home has gradually become an inevitable, compulsory and normal occurrence for people in Cuba, especially in the capital.

Living next door to somebody who is renovating their home can make your everyday life chaotic, as you end up sharing dust and rubble in every common area, and even inside your own home, as dust is the uninvited guest who always shows up.

Rubble can invade the hallway or the pavement or build up in the boundaries between the two, depending on what kind of building you live in – multi-family apartment blocks, detached houses or a neighborhood group like citadels, among others,- until they decide where and how to get rid of them.

The noise that this remodelling and extension work implies joins the aforementioned: changing walls, doors, windows etc, but it gets really ugly when simple tools like a hammer and chisel to tear down certain walls or even to build them aren’t enough, and so they turn up with electric tools or small machines that speed up and advance construction work, however they interrupt the next door neighbor’s life.

In the end, neighbors protest but they only protest momentarily or joke about it, which can be considered in a serious tone too: “Hey, have you still got a lot left to do to finish up your mansion. I can’t wait until you finish!”

However, this quasi-tolerance also reveals that neighbors are only waiting for the building work to end, while also displaying the fact that there isn’t an unspoken opposition among neighbors, who show support for the reasons the person involved in these needs has, which might be because the family is growing or because they need to make a better ventilated house.

While in reality there is no moral or legal grounds to oppose this work, because any of the neighbors could be in the same position at some point, and on the other hand, a lot of the times, work is carried by the property owner on his/her property where his family lives.

Regularly, this situation which lasts for months or even years, can lead to constant friction between the families involved, which can end up turning neighbors who once had a close relationship into enemies.

And unfortunately, in some instances, this neighborly solidarty is abused by the self-importance of whoever is building/repairing and as time passes by, they no longer bother to take measures so as not to bother their neighbor.

Many people who renovate their homes don’t ask for subsidies from the government who gives them out to those who need it, because they don’t meet specific requirements and they are looking for a way to increase their family’s financial capacity in order to do it, in legal spaces for some and in illegal spaces for others, as they do in formal and informal spaces in the Cuban market.

Life in Cuba has been very difficult for a long time now – it requires a lot of effort – and these repairs, sometime involving major work, or extensions are expensive. This can be a general situation for the poor state the housing scene has reached in your locality, municipality or province where you live.

These modifications now lie in the hands of  the apartment or home owners, when it used to be the government and its’ institutions responsibility, which has meant that it hasn’t managed to satisfy the level of attention needed for a housing scene in a poor state, especially in the capital.

Doing construction work is “just great” because it supposes a sacrifce in evey sense of living and working together, however, being the neighbor to the person who is building, when you yourself are not and you suffer the consequences, could be interpreter as a double sacrifice, as only the beneficiary is willing to suffer “everything” in order to acheve goal.