“I Did Not Enter This House Through The Window” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
Every night when Bisaida Azahares Correa goes to bed and looks at the
ceiling, she is afraid that when the sun comes up she will have leave
the house where she lives with her two children. This dwelling in the
Siboney neighborhood is her only chance of not ending up sleeping on the
street, but its walls are also the source of her major headaches.
The phrase “forced extraction” makes this well-spoken and
straight-talking woman shudder. The first time she read those two words
together was six months after her husband, Dr. Nelson Cabrera Quesada,
left on a medical mission to Saudi Arabia. Since then her life has been
turned upside down.
Life in the converted garage revolves around the impending eviction. A
situation that contrasts with the large mansions and opulent chalets –
where life seems almost bucolic – that surround the modest home of the
A few yards away, the presence of bodyguards betrays the place where
Mariela Castro lives, the daughter of the Cuban president. Nearby is
also the spacious home of Armando Hart, former Minister of Culture. All
are Bisaida’s neighbors, but they are not aware of the drama that
defines the life of this almost 50-year-old woman.
The Cuban authorities have recognized that the housing problem is the
primary social need in Cuba. Analysts estimate that the country has a
deficit of 600,000 homes, but in the last decade housing construction
has fallen by 20%.
In the midst of this situation, the so-called “forced removals” of those
who have occupied an abandoned state “shed,” a property closed for years
due to the emigration of its owner, or who have erected a house on
vacant land, are frequent. But Bisaida’s case is different.
An official notification recently ordered the family to leave the
property because it is owned by the University of Medical Sciences. The
woman vehemently questions that statement. She says that in 2005 she
settled in the house with her husband and their children to care for the
After the death of the lady, the couple did everything possible to
regularize the situation of the house that had been given to Cabrera
Quesada’s grandfather in 1979 when he worked as an administrator in the
department of International Relations at the university. After living
there three years, the teacher won the right to have the property
separated from the institution and turned over to her
The law recognizes that “at the end of a housing claim” after a tenant
lives there for 15 years, “the municipal Housing Directorates issue a
Resolution-Title of Property in favor of the persons with the right and
who agree to pay the total in 180 monthly payments.” In this case, the
family says they have settled the debt with the bank.
However, the twists and turns of the bureaucracy made the legal transfer
into the hands of the family impossible. The grandfather ended up
retiring and emigrating to the United States, although his wife remained
as the principal resident of the house until her death. Since then the
family has repeatedly tried to obtain the housing papers, but they have
only received threats.
Among the worst moments Bisaida remembers is the day they showed her
husband a document that declares they are illegal occupants. They were
given fifteen days to leave the house. Although the doctor wrote letters
of complaint “to all levels,” the answer to his claim can be summed up
in two intimidating words: “no place.”
The woman, who is recovering from breast and uterine cancer, says her
husband “has not had the support of any of the ministries involved in
his case nor of the University.”
“All I want is justice, my husband’s grandparents lived here for decades
and we’ve been here twelve years,” complains Bisaida. She is not
demanding a gift or violating the law for her own pleasure. She only
wants the house to be passed on as personal property, as stipulated in
Resolution No. V-002/2014 of the Minister of Construction, Regulation of
Linked Homes and Basic Means.
Their situation forces them to live virtually locked up.
“We are afraid to leave,” the woman laments. They fear that once outside
the house the authorities will take advantage to block access or place
an official seal on the door.
“I did not enter this house through the window,” says Bisaida. She shows
the address that appears on her identity card and that matches letter by
letter with the location of the small garage.
Source: “I Did Not Enter This House Through The Window” / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar – Translating Cuba –