By Charly Menendez Castillo
HAVANA TIMES – Like a snake that sucks on its tail, the Siboney neighborhood located in the Havana municipality of Playa, known as “Country Club Park” before the Revolution, is moving towards what it was originally created for.
Famous for being the most luxurious residential neighborhood in Cuba before 1959, the Country Club succumbed to the Communist maelstrom of making everyone form part of a single social class, and so many of these mansions in the early years of the Revolution were expropriated from their owners and converted into military units or student residences for those who came from all over the country, with the objective of seemingly preventing a new wealthy class from appearing.
With so many empty homes and so many Cubans forming part of the poorest sector of society, the grant program also had the objective of preventing Siboney from becoming a neighborhood of squats, which would have been a problem for the government because they were saying that they were against evictions and in favor of everyone having a right to a dignified home back then. However, as the politics of Revolutionary governance are always temporary in nature when it comes to the people, nobody was surprised when one day dawn broke in Siboney and there were no more students.
Communism has failed mostly because of its opposition to the social nature of human beings, and irrefutable proof of this was that once the students grant program ended in Siboney, a large number of mansions were occupied by officials from the new ruling class, politicians, wealthy artists, state-run company managers and high-ranking militarymen: there are at least three commanders and a dozen generals living there now.
The government used another means to repopulate Siboney according to its interests and converted these luxurious residences into ministry buildings and institutions, something that was meant to show that the State still had a hold over these properties, which professionals and workers of some interest to the government took up residence in, who had been brought from other provinces and didn’t have a residence in Havana in many cases.
And as if none of these measures were enough to stop Siboney from falling into the hands of Cuba’s future bourgeoisie, or into the people’s hands (which you could also say), the Urban Reforms Act gave the neighborhood a Frozen status, which in theory wanted to stop properties from being sold, renovated or exchanged, but in practice, the only thing it did was hike up property prices, which currently stand at between 500,000 and 1 million CUC, without mentioning the tens of thousands that would also have to be invested in repairs given the great ruin these properties have fallen into due to a lack of maintenance over all of these years of Communist rule.
The most important thing here isn’t that these residences are being repopulated by the new wealthy class in the country, given the fact that having a home in keeping with your financial status is part of human nature, but that many of these properties are now in the hands of relatives of the country’s highest leaders who say they are Communist: two of Raul Castro’s children and granddaughter form part of this elite group.
And so there aren’t any exceptions to the rule, there are still some mansions in Siboney that are empty in spite of the great housing crisis that the country is suffering.