Why Cubans Prefer “Capitalist Builds”

‘Socialist’ bakery and buildings in Alamar, Havana. Diario de Cuba

The number of repairs apartments built by the Revolution need is enormous…

By Diario de Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – When an ordinary Cuban wants to sell or trade their home, they specify that it is a “capitalist build”, if they can, in order to give their property more value. Cuba may be the only place in the entire world where buildings over 62 years old are preferred to new-ones. It’s a given that these old relics continue to be better than any home built by Fidel Castro’s Ministry of Construction (MICONS).

It’s not a question of Cuban architects and bricklayers suddenly forgetting how to build a proper building after January 1959, but rather about the Castro State’s monopoly system hoarding everything, and it can’t do anything but offer a poorly finished product for a sky-high cost.

Standardizing materials led to standardized buildings, and Socialist rationalism and realism exported from the USSR, built overwhelming, maze-like and depressing neighborhoods that are vertical tenements with sadistic designs, such as Alamar or Mulgoba, which are cut off from basic services and poorly communicate with the rest of the city, and residents are only those who still haven’t managed to escape yet.

The indisputable poor quality of “MICONS achievements” is in everyone’s sight; however, we’ll never know the price of manufacturing so much junk – which will have to be demolished at some point – because public accounts are secret in Cuba.

However, the obvious cost has been that the Castro family has monopolized everything related to construction, very few interesting things have been built or to the same quality to what “the evil people” built before the Revolution.

MICONS is one of these ministries – such as the Ministries of Agriculture or Culture – that solely exist to control and hinder the free development of society. The current director of MICONS, Rene Mesa Villafaña, recently appeared on national TV to explain the institution’s strategies so as “not” to make building materials priced too expensive after the Reforms Process (Tarea Ordenamiento).

Mesa admitted that authorities are cutting down on “indirect” staff and “restructuring business models” – which is what Castrismo calls “neoliberalism” when other people do it. Readjustments that are being implemented throughout the entire state economy, although the Government is only offering information about the people they hire and have said nothing about the people they are laying off, or about the many self-employed and cooperative members they’ve canceled contracts with.

Plus, “building material stores will be reorganized with production centers so they can reduce transport distances considerably, whenever they can,” according to Mesa Villafaña’s words, who says that they are “searching for a way to get sales points as close to production centers as possible, and stock these and reduce transport costs.”

It is expected that a Cuban minister of Construction would know that factories manufacturing materials don’t dispatch these to stores, but rather to construction sites where these materials will effectively be used. Right now, every one of these stores has to hire transport to go and look for materials at stores nearest the manufacturer, but these are further away from the final client.

Does the minister understand that every transport cost that MICONS is saving, will have to come out of the population’s pocket, or from other institutions transporting these materials to their final destination, and so there is no such saving, and fuel prices will probably go up? Does Diaz-Canel understand this?

The bureaucratic mindset is innate to Castrismo. While it allows this to exist, it also stops it from advancing, and is an unsolvable contradiction within every totalitarian system.

Even with all of the minister’s “great” anti-inflation strategies, Cuban state-led stores are still empty, and a sack of cement (if you can find it) doesn’t sell for less than 1200 pesos on the illicit market, one piece of rebar exceeds 800 pesos and a wooden door with frame and security lock sells for 17,500 pesos. A door costs more than three months of a surgeon’s hard work.

The number of repairs apartments built by the Revolution need is outrageous. They are new-builds, yes, but as long as the “lucky” owner steps foot in them, they need to start being repaired, they are like trees that are born bent.

But, while high-ranking Communist bureaucrats can be called dim, nobody can every doubt their good intentions… They are so kind that they sacrifice themselves and live in bourgeois neighborhoods such as Siboney, Atabey, Kholy or Miramar. None of them live in a building built by MICONS. They leave these for the general population, with all of their love.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

6 thoughts on “Why Cubans Prefer “Capitalist Builds”

  • April 27, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Anti Imperialist,
    There are many interesting articles published in HT. Some are more constructive than others. I am all in favour of HT giving a platform for people to write about issues in Cuba. That’s why I read it.
    There are various pro Cuban Government sources on the internet. Some of which are a bit spurious. There are also anti Cuban Government sources on the internet. Some of these are also a bit spurious. I hope that HT doesn’t slide off down that road. I don’t think it will.

    I find it a rich irony that some articles in HT refer to aspects of life which are common throughout many parts of the world. But these articles weirdly suggest that these common aspects of life on earth are in some way specific to Cuba.
    Brutalist architecture stems from the 1950s/1960s. These designs had an almost utopian ideal back in the day. You ever heard of Le Corbusier? Erno Goldfinger? Neave Brown? This type of architecture has always been controversial. Many examples have been demolished. The irrefutable facts are that type of architecture is not in any way specific to either Cuba or any other Communist state.
    I am very much familiar with Alamar, slightly to the east of Havana and mentioned in the article. Been there on numerous occasions over the past 25 years. I know people who live there. The architectural style is copied from the European Brutalist School. Like many examples of these buildings throughout many countries, the blocks in Alamar were much sought after at first. The design and structural faults have come to light latterly as they have in many examples of this type of architecture across the world. Including, without any doubt whatsoever, in the Capitalist countries where this style of mass housing originated.
    Throughout the world many people widely admire historical architecture. In many cases people prefer older architecture rather than more modern architecture. Again this is absolutely not specific to Cuba. The preference for more traditional architecture is widely prevalent throughout many successful Capitalist countries and even in the many failing Capitalist countries around the world which, unfortunately, are blighted by abject poverty.

    There is much to criticise regarding Cuba. But a lot of the criticism can be very scattergun.
    I prefer criticism to be more pinpointed. More accurate. More factual.
    But hey, that’s just me.
    I’m aware that this preference may put me in a minority amongst readers of this fine and upstanding online publication.

    I’ve stated several times that I am aware of the privilege and benefits of living in the wealthier part of the world. I have asked you, Anti Imperialist, several times if you aware of your privileges in comparison to a great many people in this world.
    I notice that you are yet to respond to this question.

  • April 27, 2021 at 11:22 am

    And all the cinder-block hovels of Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala…. ? What’s with these Cuban Communists anyway ? Subject to a 61 year old economic blockade, and they can’t even build aesthetically pleasing homes to give to the populace ?

  • April 27, 2021 at 7:05 am

    Nick, you seem to be very bothered by Cubans observations about their country. I am glad Havana Times lets us hear what they have to say. I realize that the perspective of a privileged Brit would be quite different. Just like visiting Cuba with dollars from abroad is a very different reality from living on a Cuban salary in Cuba. But we are talking about construction here and I have a few quesitons since you find Diario de Cuba’s writing absurd.

    1) Why do you think the tourist agencies, foreign and Cuban, take people to see pre-revolution and colonial buildings and not to see the marvels of revolutionary construction? Housing for the people.

    2) Why do the upper echelon of the Cuban power structure and their offspring prefer and mostly live in pre revolution houses and buildings in the nicest neighborhoods?

    3) Why shouldn’t Cubans point out “absurdities” or “injustices” of post revolution architecture just like other wonders of today’s Cuba?

  • April 27, 2021 at 6:20 am

    I recently attended an antiques auction. One of the items for sale was a watch built in Russia during the 1950s. It was working at the time of the auction but the auctioneer warned that it was notorious for its poor timekeeping and inconsistent working. It was, at best, a Timex watch that barely kept the correct time. Ironically, because it was a watch built under communism, it was more not less valuable. I wonder if there is a day coming in the future when these post-1962 structures that are still standing will also achieve the same kind of infamy?

  • April 27, 2021 at 12:42 am

    ‘Cuba may be the only place in the entire world where buildings over 62 years old are preferred to new-ones.’

    This is a plainly absurd remark.
    This type of weird nonsensical remark is very much in vogue on HT.
    I fully understand that people want to criticise the Cuban Government. They deserve much criticism.
    But the way criticisms are seasoned with these absurdities is truly laughable.

    By the way, brutalist architecture was a controversial style. Fraught with design flaws both in terms of style and structure. However the writer of this article should inform themselves of the fact that this style of architecture was by no means specific to Cuba or Russia.
    Far from it. This style of architecture popular in the 1960s was prevalent throughout many capitalist countries.

  • April 26, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Yup it is shocking on so many levels. Edeficios capitalistos are indeed better made but need repairs too – the difference being they are worth repairing, while revolutionary buildings are less predictable and usually less worthy of throwing good money after bad. It’s as if the government know this and are waiting for the buildings to disintegrate (mirroring the decline of revolutionary fervour?) at which point all culpability for said crumbling will be attributed to el bloqueo.

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