When the Future Begins to Totter

Verónica Vega

Extensions on the backs of the apartment buildings.

HAVANA TIMES — Most of us know the sense of security that a roof over one’s head can afford. The home is – or ought to be –our refuge, the place we go to get away from the world’s commotion.

The air has been filled with strange vibrations these past days, there’s a murmur among people who live on the ground floors of tenement buildings in the neighborhood of Alamar, people who have expanded their homes into the common areas surrounding these buildings.

The situation was explained to these people in blunt, categorical terms at a recent review meeting of their Committees for the Defense of the Revolution: all areas of these homes that aren’t part of the official schematics of the properties will be demolished. The campaign began at Alamar’s Micro 10 Zone and will advance slowly, like a destructive tide, across the immense suburb.

The only exceptions to be considered are cases of extreme overcrowding, which shall be carefully analyzed.

Garages adorned with graffiti.

The campaign will include garages, which only those who own a vehicle – and use the structure to house this vehicle – will be able to keep. All other garages are to be used by people with private businesses. There was also talk of measures against fenced-in gardens with illegal constructions (cement paths and floors, gates and others).

The impotent outbursts of anger, from people who built these things with their own sweat and tears (as everything is built in Cuba), of course came immediately.

It is hard to distribute something as abstract as human space fairly. Individuals have needs that cannot be adequately captured by any law or made to fit into an implacable registry. Once one has settled in a private universe and imagined one’s future there (with the precarious certainty afforded by four, solid walls), picturing a bulldozer razing part of this universe, this sacred place to the ground is indeed nightmarish.

Many gardens at the front of buildings have been privatized.

This situation is the result of the terrible housing policies we endured for years and which are only now being revoked: of restrictions which forbade the sale or purchase of homes and legally renting out a house at payable prices, under the protection afforded by a rental agreement.

People thus solved their housing problems with whatever was at hand. Divorced couples, families that grew in size because of a new birth or because relatives from out of town moved in – what could be more within reach, for them, than their immediate surroundings?

Some of the numerous, illegal housing expansions in the area blend in with the architecture of their surroundings. Others are excessively lavish, emanating a kind of naïve opulence. Yet others are shoddy, slapdash constructions, at best.

Some of the constructions that have grown skyward (or downward) seem to defy the mysterious laws of engineering and architecture. They are like concrete creepers that grow unchecked across the facades of houses and buildings, covering a city crammed with filth and deteriorated structures.

I have heard that the first demolitions at Alamar’s Micro 10 Zone have sparked off violent reactions, that a patrol car was even turned over by angered locals. I haven’t been able to confirm whether this is true or not.

What I am certain of is that these bad vibrations in the air do not presage anything good.