Twenty Years in the Streets of Havana

Miriam Castañedo Morales has been wondering about the streets of Havana with a sign claiming her apartment back. She accuses the Municipal Housing Directorate of having taken away her apartment when she was imprisoned.

Photo: Mario Hechevarría Driggs
Photo: Mario Hechevarría Driggs

“I used to live alone in a three-bedroom apartment in Old Havana,” Miriam explains. “I used to be an independent woman, I didn’t belong to any Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) or the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). I could come to and leave my apartment anytime I wished until one of the heads of the police sector, lieutenant Reinaldo, together with the Communist Party members from my neighbourhood, had decided that my way of living made me prone to crime. They started disciplinary proceedings against me in which they claimed I was posing a danger and shortly afterwards they brought me to court.”

Miriam was sentenced at the age of 27 to 4 years of imprisonment in the Western Prison for Women. She served her sentenced and was released in 1996. However, when she wanted to return to her apartment she saw that it was occupied by a family she did not know.

“I started claiming my apartment back at the Municipal Housing Directorate and at the National Assembly of People’s Power but the only explanation they gave me to stop me from dealing with the matter was that I was convicted by law. The president of the People’s Power, a certain Susana, told me that my case could not be settled and that I should first go find a hostel and later would receive a permanent place to live in.”

Miriam Castañedo Morales says she has not had and refuses to have any accommodation in a hostel. Today she makes her living in a shoe store. She learnt the trade in the female prison with a great will and dedication.

“I will continue wondering about the streets with my sign until they return my apartment to me. I want to keep claiming my right I had been deprived of by being sentenced and imprisoned even though I have never committed a single crime.”