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Thread: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

  1. #31
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    Cuba's New Real Estate Market, Betting on the Future, Wary of the Pasthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/cubas-new-real-estate-mar_b_3299636.html

    Yoani Sanchez

    Placing zeros to the right seems to be the preferred sport of those who put a price on the homes they sell in Cuba today. A captive market at the end of the day, the buyer could find a lot of surprises in the wide range of classified ads. From owners who ask astronomical sums for their houses, sums that have nothing to do with the reality of demand, to real bargains that make you feel sorry for the naiveté of the negotiator. Many are pressured to sell, some by those with the smarts to realize that this is the time to buy a house on the Island. It is a bet on the future, if it goes wrong they lose almost everything, but if it goes well they position themselves -- in advance -- for tomorrow. The slow hurry up and the fast run at the speed of light. These are times to make haste, the end of an era could be close... say the smartest.

    It's surprising to see, with barely any notion of real estate, how Cubans launch themselves into the marketing of square meters. They talk about their space, usually with an over abundance of adjectives that make you laugh or scare you. So when you read "one bedroom apartment in central Havana with mezzanine bedroom," you should understand "room in a Central Havana apartment with wooden platform." If they talk about a garden, it's best to imagine a bed with soil and plants at the entrance; and even five-bedroom residences, after a visit, are reduced to two bedrooms partitioned with cardboard. The same mistrust with which people view the photos on the social networks where young people look for partners, should be applied to housing ads here. However, you can also find real pearls in the midst of the exaggeration.

    Right now there are at least three parameters that determine the final cost of a home: location, physical state of construction, and pedigree. The neighborhood has a great influence on the final value of the property. In Havana, the most prized areas are Vedado, Miramar, Central Havana, Víbora and Cerro, for their central character. The least wanted are Alamar, Reparto Eléctrico, San Miguel del Padrón and La Lisa. The poor state of public transport significantly influences people's preference for houses that are near major commercial centers with abundant spaces for entertainment. If there is a farmers market in the vicinity, the asking price goes up; if it is near the Malecon it also goes up. People shy away from the periphery, although among the "new rich," those who have accumulated a little more capital whether by legal or illegal means, the trend of looking for homes in the outskirts has begun. It is still too early, however, to speak about a trend to locate in greener and less polluted areas. For now, the main premise can be summarized as the more central the better.

    The physical state is one of the other elements that defines what a home will cost. If the ceiling is beam and slab, the numbers fall; meanwhile constructions from the 1940s and '50s enjoy a very good reputation and appeal. The lowest values are for the so-called "microbrigade works" with their ugly concrete buildings and their little Eastern European style apartments. If the roofing is light -- tiles, zinc, wood, ceiling paper -- the seller will get less. The state of the bathroom and kitchen are another point that directly influences the marketability of the property. The quality of the floors, if the windows are barred and the door is new -- of glass and metal -- these are points in its favor. If there are no neighbors overhead, then the seller can rest easy. Also very valuable are houses with two entrances, designed for a large family seeking to split up and live independently. Everything counts, anything goes.

    So far it resembles a real estate market like any other anywhere in the world. However, there is a situation that defines, in a very particular way, the value of homes for sale. This is their pedigree. This refers to whether the house has belonged to the family for forever, or if it was confiscated in one of the waves of expropriations in Cuba. If the previous owner left during the Rafter Crisis of 1994 and the State handed the property over to someone new, the price is lower. The same thing happens if it was taken during the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, a time when property was awarded to others after the emigration of those who had lived there up until that time. But where the prices hit rock bottom is with those homes confiscated between 1959 and 1963, when great numbers left for exile. Few want to take on the problem of acquiring a site that later may go into litigation. Although there are some who are taking advantage of this situation to buy real mansions in the most central neighborhoods at bargain prices.

    In order to check the location, the state of construction, as well as the legal past of the house, potential buyers are aided by their own experience, a good architect and even a lawyer to dig through the details of the property. Each element adds or removes a cipher, one zero or one hundred to the total price people are willing to pay. In a captive market anything is possible; it's as if knowledge of real estate has only been sleeping, lethargic, and now returns with amazing force.
    House deficit is estimated in 1.6 million units. 75% of the units in existence are over 40 years old, and 60% of the total is in bad or average condition according to the Cuban National Housing Institute.

    During the last 50 years the construction of new houses has been dismal. The regime statistics in the construction of new houses are cooked. This suspicion is validated by Former Vice-Minister Carlos Lage who near the beginning of 2009 revealed that less than half of the 111,300 housing units claimed built in 2006 were in fact built.

    The 2002 census data show that of the new housing units built between 1990 and 2002, close to 50,000 were bohíos and adobe structures (primitive dwellings with palm bark walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs; adobe, mud bricks walls, earthen floors and palm leave roofs}. Those can’t be classified as adequate housing.

  2. #32
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    The Castroit regime newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported in April 2008 that in the city of Havana alone 28,000 people resided in buildings about to collapse. The expansion of slums (shanty towns, shelters) in the city has increased 50%, sheltering as many as 450,000 inhabitants, 20% of the city 2.2 million. It is very common that 3 generations live in a single house. This is the fundamental reason why the people occupy terraces, balconies, porches, sidewalks, and build mezzanines, to gain space. This has created a grave social problem for the regime.

  3. #33
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    The Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONE) estimated in 33,901 the number of houses terminated in 2010, of which 12,214 were built by individuals and the rest by the state.

    The construction of dwellings, around 35,000 units annually, not only aren’t enough to solve the housing deficit, but not even for replacing the losses by diverse causes. No signs of improvement are seeing in the future for the housing problem under the Castroit regime.

  4. #34
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    Loose in Havana Gandalf and Elton John
    Loose in Havana, Gandalf and Elton John | Generation Y

    By Joani Sanchez

    London has come to Havana. During this week of British Culture that is celebrated from the first of June in our country, even the climate has decided to be in sync with that of the other Island. Grey skies, drizzle, mist at dawn. All we lack is the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes sneaking around a corner or a magician knocking with this staff on the wood of our door. They are days of great music and a chance to appreciate unusual schedule in the movie theaters. Since last Tuesday they have been showing a selection that includes the 2013 Oscar winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, and also the biographical film Marley, about the life of the famous reggae singer and composer. The selection of cartoons for kids and teens will probably attract a good audience at a time when many are on vacation from school.

    I have been enjoying some of the programming not only for me but also for many others. Especially thinking about those young Cubans , or forty years ago, secretly listened to an English quartet which the official media now play everywhere. The striking colors and the design of the poster for this “British Week” has evoked for me the iconography of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and also the delightful adventurers in the Yellow Submarine. So some of us have also taken it as a tribute to those battered Beatlemaniacs from back then. These days, however, the greatest comfort comes from the window cracked open to let in this fresh air that comes to us from the outside. This gift of sensing that culture can make the Atlantic seem narrower, the passing years shorter, the losses recoverable.
    Like Paul McCartney concert in Red Square in May 2003 before a crowd of 100,000, where the Beatles were previously banned by the Communist dictatorship, Bono will performed in Havana in a free Cuba in front of a much larger audience.

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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    During the decade of the 60’s, under the Castroit regime, the use of tie pants, long hair Beatles’ style and their music was considered an ideological deviation of the revolutionary principles. The young Beatle fans of that time were persecuted, ex pulsed from educational centers and send to the Military Units to Help Production (UMAP) forced labor camps along with dissidents, homosexuals, and other “scum” who had committed no crime punishable by law, revolutionary or otherwise.

  6. #36
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    Entrance Exams: An Assessment of Education in Cuba
    Yoani Sanchez: Entrance Exams: An Assessment of Education in Cuba

    Yoani Sanchez


    They're no longer dressed in blue uniforms and some boys even show off their rebellious manes. Hair that no teacher will demand they cut -- at least for the next few weeks -- hair that will ultimately fall to the razor of Obligatory Military Service. They still look like students, but very soon many of them will be marching with rifles slung over their shoulders. They are young men who just, days ago, finished their school days at different high schools all over Cuba. The college entrance exams are long past and this week they've learned who will have a place in higher education.

    Just outside the schools, the lists of the accepted and unaccepted speak for themselves. José Miguel Pérez High school -- in the Plaza of the Revolution municipality -- could be a good example to explain the situation. This educational center is one of the best performing high schools in the capital. A situation partly due to the professional and economic composition of the neighborhood, which means many parents can afford after-school TUTORS (we refer to these as "dishtowels" -- they clean things up). Despite these advantages, the end-of-year statistics for this school are more alarming than satisfying.
    Education in Cuba before 1959

    The first United States intervention worked to replace the war-ravished educational system with one based on American models (a pattern followed until the Revolution of 1959)

    After the first American intervention school teaching took an enormous stride forward thanks to the great work of Enrique Jose Varona who stirred up school and university education. Varona was an able guide and rendered his country a great service.

    By 1925 8,854 teachers in 4,202 schools were teaching 426,413 children, the highest proportion of children in school in Latin America, and Cuban educators were serving as advisers in several other countries of the region. There were, however, few schools in the countryside, where half the population lived.

    President Fulgencio Batista in the late thirties improved the primary and secondary education with the creation of the so called civic military schools in rural areas with army sergeants as teachers, and the "Civic-Military Institutes" at secondary level in 1940.

    Elementary education was compulsory for children between 6 and 14 years of age. In the 1950s, there were 1,206 rural schools in Cuba and a system of mobile libraries with 180,000 volumes used predominantly in the rural areas. The total number of kindergartens and primary schools were 12,640, of which 900 were private schools (324 catholic schools).

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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    In 1958 Cuba had 34,000 teachers in public schools and 3,500 in 900 officially recognized private schools, educating a total of 1,346,800 students, of which 90,000 were in private school (68,000 enrolled in catholic schools) [1]. The public school system covered from kindergarten up to High School.

    There were also 171 high schools with an enrolment of 49,200 students. Also 114 institutions of higher education, below the university level; among them were technical institutes, polytechnic and professional schools, which were financed by the government. Just in 1958, these institutions graduated 38,428 students. In 1958, the island's illiteracy rate was 18%.

    Another 165 private high schools had an enrollment of 36,280 students, for a total of 85,480 students in high school. The number of universities reached 6, 3 state universities and 3 privates. There were 25,000 students enrolled in the universities. The total number of students at all levels was 1,495,700. This data is found in the archives of Cuba's Ministry of Education.

    [1] En el último año de aquella república, Abreu Ramiro, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 1984

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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    Cuba has had one of the most literate populations in Latin America since well before the Castroit revolution. Cuba national illiteracy rate was 18% in 1958, ranking third in Latin America.

    Cuba was the Latin American country with the highest budget for education in 1958, with 23% of the total budget earmarked for this expense. It was followed by Costa Rica (20%), and Guatemala and Chile, each with 16%. This data comes from America in Statistics, published by the Pan American Union.

    The female percentage, in relation to the total student population, was the highest in the Western Hemisphere including the US. According to the United Nations Statistics Division yearbook of 1959, shows Cuba having 3.8 university students per 1,000 inhabitants, well above the Latin America median of 2.6.

    Many Cuban textbook were incorporated by several Latin American as official textbooks on their school systems. Cuban texts books exported to those countries, brought $10 million revenue in 1958.

  9. #39
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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    From 1899 to 1958 the illiteracy rate dropped from 72% (Census of 1899) to 18% (Cuba's Ministry of Education archives) for persons older than 10 years of age, a remarkable achievement. Cubans were not just literate but also educated.

    There is a pattern from the Castroit regime to inflate the percentage of illiterates prior to 1959, by using the illiteracy rate of the 1953 census of 23.6%. Fidel Castro on December 17, 1960, in the CMQ-TV program "Meet the Press" affirmed that “The illiteracy rate in our country is 37.5%.” In the Central Report to the First Congress of the Party in 1975, Fidel said that “on the date of the Moncada (1953), 23.6% of the population over 10 years was illiterate.” [1]. In spite of what Fidel said, the document "V Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in October 1997, referring to the period before 1959 says “a country with more than 40 per cent of illiterates.” [2]

    The regime eventually acknowledge the real number, which indicated that in 1961 from a total of 929,207 identified as illiterates, 707,212 were taught to read and write; 221,995 did not acquire these skills. [3]

    In 1961 the population over 10 years was 5.15 million, and the number of illiterates 929,207. The actual illiteracy rate based on the regime figures was 18 %, the same percentage than in 1958. It is obvious the cooking of the figures by the regime.

    [1] Fidel Castro Ruz: Informe Central al Primer Congreso del Partido. Editado por el DOR del Comité Central del PCC, Habana, Cuba, 1975, p. 27.

    [2] Granma Internacional 1997, Documento fundamento del V congreso del Partido Comunista Cubano

    [3] Verde Olivo (Havana), August 16, 1968, pp. 40-43 - En ese año se habían localizado 979.207 analfabetos y de ellos se habían alfabetizado 707.212; de la población cubana, entonces estimada en 6.933.253 habitantes, quedaban sin alfabetizar 271.955

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    Re: Cuba’s bloggers are as sharp abroad as at home

    The good thing about Yoani Sanchez website is the capacity to bring out into the open the pathetic Pro-Castro fellow travelers who support the Stalinist regime in Cuba from the comfort of their own arm chairs in the US and other countries. Keep posting Yoani, sock it to them, gives your versions of events in Cuba as you see them.

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