[Angel – Age – 40’s; Birthplace – Havana, Cuba; Residence – Havana, Cuba; Lives with Wife and Extended Family; Occupation – Self-Employed Barber, Previously Government Employed Barber]
I hope this letter finds you well. You have asked me to explain for your blog how homes are bought, sold and owned in Cuba, and what changes we expect with the new Congress.
The 1940 Constitution protected property rights, although President Castro had destroyed much of the protection was eliminated. But when Castro took control in 1959, the Constitution was changed. The government first took large farms and properties of foreign companies. The government then had the right to take the homes of those who had left the country, were committed of a crime, etc. The government took those properties and moved people and government agencies into homes taken from people. They moved two families into the home of my uncle because he had left the country. My aunt and her daughter were still in the home, and they were forced to move. The photo in this blog is of a home in Santiago de Cuba, which was taken from its owners and now is a communist committee office.
Over all these years, it has been illegal to buy or sell property. The only way to change your home was to do a trade, called a permuta. The law permitted a trade, but it had to be an even trade. No money could change hands. My home is a floor in an old building in Centro Habana. I need a home on the first floor, because of my mother’s health, whereas mine is on the third floor, and there’s no elevator. I have tried to trade my home for another for four years. I have tried to use the Internet web site called permuta.com. I have not been successful.
The new law supposedly will let us legally sell a home and buy a new home. It will also allow trading up or down and exchanging money. Honestly, we do not know if it will really change things at all. We hear of new laws and changes, usually for foreign sources. When we receive information from our own government, the information transmutes quickly into speculation and excitement, which usually does not lead to anything.
My neighbor, Roberto, has received a visa to depart the country. Somebody asked him whether he could sell his home and take the cash with him. He laughed uproariously. Surely you don’t think our government would allow that.
Franklin, I understand you will be returning to Havana soon. I’m looking forward to seeing you here in Cuba. Un Abrazo.