cohn17

November 24, 2015

housing: havana, part 6

one of our projects involved a visit to an apartment building known as a solár. soláres are buildings that were owned by a single family before the revolution, that were then taken over by the state and split up into apartments. the state provides the soláres to the residents for free: free of rent and, apparently, largely free of maintenance except for what the residents do themselves.

the solár that we visited, on calle san ignácio, had been owned by a member of the aristocracy, the duque de pinar del rio. the duque’s slaves and servants moved in after the revolution, and their descendants still live there.

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in addition to the soláres, there are regular apartment buildings, also owned by the state. while in the san ignácio building, i met a woman named zoraida who had recently moved out of her apartment because the ceiling had collapsed. she gave me a copy of an inspection notice from the city’s housing agency, dated december 2013, which recommended that the units on the second floor of the building be demolished because they were structurally unsound. the order was later extended to the entire building, but before any work commenced, her bathroom ceiling fell in while her grandchild was in the bath. the baby died, and the remaining 14 (!) members of the family relocated from their two-bedroom apartment to an empty industrial building that they found with their friends’ help.

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kitchen area part of the sleeping area zoraida and two of her children
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zoraida’s daughter shows a photo of the child who died in the roof collapse zoraida’s sewing machine. she works as a tailor zoraida shows an example of her work in a letter to the city asking for help that she wrote prior to the ceiling collapse, zoraida reminded the authorities that she was a revolutionary in obedience to Fidel and Raúl

subsequently, i visited her old building and was invited in by some residents who showed me their apartment and zoraida’s next door.  with my rusty spanish, i couldn’t understand all the details they shared, but i understood two things: they were at pains to say that the state did provide them help in many ways; nonetheless, as regarded their housing, they knew that their building was in bad shape.

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next: cigars!

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