Currently many families across the island, facing the pandemic under extreme conditions, live day to day with the threat that their roof can collapse at any moment
The housing situation is one of the maladies that most affects Cuban society. The government has recognized that a million homes are needed to alleviate this crisis, which has already persisted for years.
Currently many families across the island, facing the pandemic under extreme conditions, live day to day with the threat that their roof can collapse at any moment.
Such is the case of Jenny Mesa Sánchez, 43, a single mother with seven children. She lives at 305 Amargura Street, in Old Havana. She says that it is her extended family that helps her, even though it means that most of her children are living away from home.
“I have three of them here with me, the youngest boy and two girls, who are 5 and 11 years old, the others live with my aunt and my grandmother, their house is in good condition, but we cannot all fit there. There was a time when we were living in a one-room apartment with 14 people, I had no choice but to come to this place where I have been for about ten years.”
“We have no life here. There is a constant fear because the roof leaks everywhere when it rains, the water runs down the walls, can you imagine having to stay in quarantine all these days under these circumstances? We are living here with eleven other families under these conditions. I have taken a letter to the Council of the State, and they have yet to respond.”
But the worst thing – says this mother – is that she does not even have staple foods from the so-called basic basket of goods to feed her children.
“Due to the pandemic, they gave me a ration card for six of my children on a temporary basis. Because my oldest son is 25 years old, neither him nor I were included. They took this ration card from me in December and I had to wonder, where was I going to get milk and other food for these children, especially now that the prices are going up for just about every kind of food?
The building where these families live has four floors. On the first two, its residents were able to repair them with their own resources, but that is exactly what the rest of the neighbors are lacking.
“There is no one on the fourth floor, 8 years ago they removed the families that had been living there, because the whole thing seemed like it was going to collapse. We hoped that a solution would be found, but that was where it ended. With the help of the government we could have fixed this somewhat, but for that there still is no answer either. However, two blocks from here, they have rebuilt the Gran Hotel in just a few months, which was also in a very bad condition. So there is something for a hotel, but there is nothing for us, and we still have no solution,” said Mesa Sánchez, while telling a little girl to leave the dog alone so that it does not bark, and I ask myself how they were going to feed it.
Day-to-day living for people who subsist under these overcrowded and dangerous conditions is a kind of challenge to the very reason for existing at all, and even the strong lose hope at times. As this same Cuban said, “sometimes I think there are no reasons to go on living.”