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La Vida Habana

The life in Havana

Workers at the Malecon in Havana Walking through this impressive city you notice the tough life of the Habaneros.
If you look closely, walking in Habana Centro's Paseo de Marti you will notice between 2 beautiful famous hotels an entrance you'll see 5 families are living in an old decay building. For sure after Cuba will change its current system, in this building will be a commercial business as well since its a number A1 location




Centro HavanaMost of those neighborhoods in bad conditions are inhabited by migrants from the interior, mostly from the former Oriente province, nicknamed "palestinos", coming to the capital seeking better job opportunities and greater availability of consumer goods. Internal migration is a critical factor in the growth of Cuba's capital.

A lot of illegal inhabitants in illegal rented homes and overcrowded. Young people settle into buildings that have been declared uninhabitable, or movie theaters, stores or hotels that have been shut down. As a consequence of this deterioration and huge shortage in housing construction a significant amount of overcrowding has taken place with very negative social consequences. Entire families are often forced to sleep in the same room. It is very common to see what was initially a single family dwelling unit being subdivided into two or three family nuclei. The increasing domestic violence appears to be directly connected with this situation as well as the extremely high divorce rate. Yet, many divorced couples must continue living together, although they marry again, subdividing the already restricted dwelling.


Electric Centro HavanaUsually, blackouts have taken place throughout the day, but particularly during the "peak hours", between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m. But this has not only been in Havana; the situation has been similar in other cities along the Island. It is important to point out that there are areas where blackouts do not occur, --important hotels, hospitals and the exclusive residences of the new class in power.

Since Cuba is doing "business" with Venezuela (around 2006) there are less blackouts because of the trade/exchange doctors and nurses versus oil.

A popular measure to find a remedy when electricity is cut off, has been returning to the ancient "oil lamp of the fields" popularly known as "chismosas" made in a very primitive manner: A glass bottle with an empty tube of toothpaste inside, to hold a wick, frequently homemade.
Another more ingenious form of coping with the energy crisis has been the building of "energy plants." These are really sets of batteries (mostly obtained in the underground economy) of different types, and arranged with great ingenuity that can provide electricity at night, at least to see the extremely popular TV soap opera and illumination.




Habanera mother and childThe young married couples are those who have suffered the most because of the dwelling deficit. In the majority of cases, just-married couples must live at the house of one of their parents. Or, even worse, if the living quarters are already congested in both families' houses, then they may have to continue living separately, each one with his/her respective family.

The situation is such that, very often, married couples have to go to the "posadas" love nests or rooms-rented-by-the-hour places now managed by the government, in order to enjoy some privacy. But, in order to rent a room in those places, due to their scarcity, in many instances they have to form a line in public, frequently during a long period of time and even making payments "under the table" to the managers to get a good room or speed up their turn. Recent reports indicate a drastic reduction of the posadas in Havana.

Coal & Gas

Coal, gas and kerosene for cooking or warming anything are also scarce. Habaneros have to order gas at least 25 days in advance, it is just not available …


No surprise entering a house and you will meet with chickens and pigs in a regular Habanero home, without a garden or some outside place. They just keep them inside for the food. This, of course implied serious sanitary consequences


With special thanks to:
Juan Clark, Ph.D., Sociology Professor, Miami-Dade Community College, Kendall Campus









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