Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Yoani Sanchez Award-winning Cuban blogger

Building a Home in Cuba, Without Bank Loans, Without Legal Supply Markets
Posted: 08/09/2013 5:25 pm

She gets up and has a little coffee. The concrete of the counter is
still fresh. Magaly, her two sons and her husband live in a house under
construction. They’ve spent seven years like this. Little by little
raising the walls and installing some pipes. Every day that goes by they
get closer to the end of the job, but they also live through another day
of anxiety and risks to get the materials. Today they need stone dust
and washed sand. They get their money together before heading out to the
state supply center, inviting me to accompany them. We arrive at the
central warehouse, but at the door an employee delivers the bad news.
They haven’t stocked up, we’ll have to wait until next week.

We then dive into the world of resellers of cement fillers. Finding them
is easy; haggling, impossible. The area around the Cristina railway
workshop is the best supplied hardware black market in the whole
country. You just have to walk through the doorways and gates for voices
to call out asking, “What are you looking for?” We’re cautious, it’s not
recommended to go with the first offer. Swindles are everywhere. One
man, with a little table where he’s fixing lighters, looks at us and
whispers, “I have everything for construction.” In a conjurer’s gesture
he passes us a much-handled sheet that contains a list of prices: gravel
and sand, 1.50 convertible pesos (CUC)* per sack; Jaimanita exterior
stone, 7.00 CUC per square meter; and granite tiles, 10.00 CUC, also per
square meter. “If you buy a large quantity transport is included,” he
points out, while dismantling a lighter with an Italian flag drawn on
the plastic.

My friends do the accounting. Acquiring surfacing for the entire floor
would cost their combined wages for 20 months. The costs of the bathroom
fixtures are enough to elicit a little scream from Magaly, but it’s
barely audible, covered by the noise of the road. They decide to
prioritize. Today they’ll take only some blocks, several sacks of sand,
and two wooden doors. The vendor adds it up and rounds it off to
everything Magaly and her husband earn for half a year’s work. “It will
always be a cheaper option than the legal stores,” she says out loud to
console herself.

Night falls and everyone’s fingers are covered with a gray layer of
cement and dust. The children go to bed in the only room that has a
roof. The counter has hardened and the dirty dishes are left on its
rough surface because there are still no pipes to deliver the water to
wash them. Tomorrow they’ll have to go out and get steel and some
electrical switches. One construction day less. Twenty-four hours closer
to having their house finished.

*Translator’s note: One Cuban convertible peso (known as a CUC and
convertible only in Cuba), is worth roughly one US dollar (before
exchange fees). The average monthly wage in Cuba is less than $20 US,
and is generally paid in Cuban pesos (CUP); 24 CUP = 1 CUC. Many
everyday items, and most “specialty” items are only sold for CUCs,
including in State stores.

My English language blog has moved to a new site:
My blog in other languages can be accessed here:

Source: “Building a Home in Cuba, Without Bank Loans, Without Legal
Supply Markets | Yoani Sanchez” –

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