The Cuban Dream of Living on One’s Own

Rosa Martinez

Foto: Caridad
Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Amanda is a 26-year-old woman from Guantanamo who lives with her parents, her grandparents, her older sister, her husband and her two-year-old child. Though she has grown accustomed to having her relatives close, as she was born in the home of her maternal grandparents (which was always full of uncles and cousins), she continues to dream of having her own place, where she can live with her husband and daughter, alone.

“Sharing a home with so many people is complicated,” she says. “You can go several days without a single conflict, but there’s always a clash with so many people sharing one roof.”

“For instance, my father is a respectful and quiet man. He gets along with my husband well, but, since he had a male-chauvinistic education, he doesn’t think it’s right that he should help me wash and iron, let alone be near the kitchen. His way of seeing things is from a different time, but we have to respect him, because it’s his house, you know how it is.”

She also says her mother is a bit ill-tempered and is never happy with anything she does. “I clean the house every day and wash the dishes (my older sister is a first-rate slacker), but the kitchen is her territory, no one can get in there.”

“Sometimes, my daughter or husband wants to have something special for dinner, and it’s almost impossible to please them without displeasing her. She says the girl is a brat that ought to eat what she cooked or that my husband has silly whims (even if he just wants a cup of coffee), complaining about this and that. If we lived apart, this would of course never happen.”

When asked why she doesn’t rent a place, she looks up and replies: “No way, it’s too expensive; we don’t earn enough to do that. We’ve thought about doing this more than once, after having had terrible arguments at home, but, with a clear head, we’ve decided that’s not the solution, at least in our case.”

She says they’re trying to get a bank loan, but that they need two co-debtors and people don’t want to get involved in things like that, because there have been scams out there. Not even two loans are enough to buy a dingy room with, not to mention the fact they’d be in debt for five or more years.

Amanda is suffering the consequences of sharing a house with others, but she’s not the only one I know in this situation. I imagine more than one Cuban who reads this post will tell me they know many others in similar situations, if they’re not in that situation themselves.

The housing deficit is one of the many problems the socialist government hasn’t been able to solve in the course of more than 50 years in power. This brings about family conflicts, as 32 percent of homes on the island (or so says the last housing census) has several generations living together under one roof and, of course, everyone has their own tastes, preferences and habits.

A simple argument over loud music (or the kind of music being played), the life of a young, disorderly person running into that of the excessively ordered life of the elderly, can lead to heated arguments within the family, disrespectful words, separation…

Living with relatives of different ages can be frustrating. You need a lot of love to tolerate the people we love, who have ways of behaving and thinking different from ours. We need patience to understand their habits and respect their spaces, intelligence to choose one’s words and the best way to go forward. What we all need most, however, is our own place, in order to avoid all such conflict.

3 thoughts on “The Cuban Dream of Living on One’s Own

  • Having sex and making babies are two different things. I hope that you knew that. 😉

  • “… Cuban families are the smallest in Latin America at less than 1 child per family statistically…”

    That’s interesting. I never would have guessed that. I guess all my friends are a bunch of horn-dogs…

  • The Castros are willing to admit that the housing deficit is greater than 600,000 homes. Off the record, the same government officials say that number is more than a million. Add to that the fact that 40% of the housing in use is substandard. Worse yet, at least half of that housing (20% of total) should be declared inhabitable. This contradicts the Castros propaganda that there are no homeless people in Cuba. Indeed, most Cubans go to sleep at night with a roof over their head, but just barely. There is some irony that the Castros recently issued a press release boasting about a new 5-star resort in Cayo Coco. Meanwhile, more residential buildings are collapsing after strong spring rains leaving resident families to live with other relatives, in overcrowded shelters or worse. The lack of housing also contributes to low family size. Cuban families are the smallest in Latin America at less than 1 child per family statistically. Here’s the point, if Socialism fares poorly in feeding, clothing and housing it’s people, what’s the point?

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