Neighbors Not Lovers

My neighbor Orbelia has a magnificent house that she inherited after taking care of its original owners. Orbelia enjoyed many years there with her husband, until he died of a heart attack. As Orbelia had no children and the house was large, she had the idea of inviting her brother to live with her. He came with his wife, daughter and granddaughter. The family harmony was short-lived. The recent arrivals and Orbelia clashed, but it’s a situation with no turning back.

On coming to the capital, Orbelia’s brother sold his house in the village of San Felipe, despite the fact that in Cuba selling a house is prohibited by law, so now Orbelia’s brother has to arbitrate in fights between his sister and his wife and Orbelia lives like a stranger in her house and even contemplates the possibility of looking for a trade to divide the households into two.

This rarefied atmosphere is not unusual. The housing crisis in Cuba, and the narrow law, are a source of corruption: when selling is prohibited, the housing transaction is masked as a kind of trade, for which one must hire lawyers, architects and other officials from the state administration. At the neighborhood level, the recent arrivals take advantage of the apathy of the long-time residents, and take over the positions on the Defense Committee, this avoiding the possibility that someone will denounce the illegality they are committing.

Regardless of the detail that puts the General Housing Law in the varied spectrum of administrative corruption, Orbelia and her family continue to involve the neighbor in their troubled coexistence.


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