Popularly known as "the mother's law," there is a provision in Cuba stating that a newborn can only be registered at its mother’s address. Issued in order to limit migration within the country, the law prevents, above all, a mother from obtaining legal residence in the capital through a newborn child.
Little Carla is one of those affected. She was born on October 28, 2017 at the Eusebio Hernández Gyneco-Obstetric Hospital, known as the Maternidad Obrera and located in Marianao. After a difficult delivery, the child contracted staphylococcus and was admitted to the Juan Manuel Márquez pediatric facility for a week.
The doctors managed to save Carla's life, but her fight was not over. After leaving the hospital, her mother could not register her at the Population and Housing Registry in Marianao, where she had been born, as the law required her to do so at the distant Sagua de Tánamo, in Holguín.
Carla's mother, Amanda, and her husband have been trying to legalise the house they live in for years - an essential requirement to claim legal ownership of the residence. Thus far they have been unsuccessful, so they lack the Rationing Book, or Libreta de Abastecimiento, issued by the Food Control Office (OFICODA). Thus, Carla is a Cuban girl without access to the special diet sold for newborns.
The baby still only consumes breast milk, but soon she will need the food available through that book. By then her parents will have to have gone to Sagua de Tánamo to register her. If not, they will have to get by however they can.
This never would have happened if this arbitrary law did not exist, as Carla's father does have a Havana address. "He’s lived in Havana for 30 years, going back before there were nonsense laws like that law," says Amanda. "They should rescind it, because it affects mothers and their newborns, who are not to blame."
A case similar to Carla's is that of 4-year-old Taimé, who lives at the Calle Primera and 240, in Jaimanitas. Her mother, Yusimy, had to go to San Antonio del Sur, in Guantanamo, to register her.
"Can you imagine what the trip cost us?" complains Yusimy. "The tickets, the stay for a week, the paperwork... But the truly absurd part came after she received her Identity Card, and we proceeded to the OFICODA office. They told me that they couldn't do it, because I was on file at the OFICODA offices in Playa, in Havana. Then I exploded: "What?! I just came from Havana because they told me that I had to register her here! How can you be telling me that I have to sign her up at the OFICODA there? It makes no sense."
Finally, Yusimy was able to register little Taimé in Jiguaní, and then process a transfer to the OFICODA in Playa, a step that was also a major hassle, as they are still processing the ownership of their house in Jaimanitas.
As in the case of Carla, little Taimé could have been registered at her father's address in Lawton, thereby avoiding the costly trip to Guantanamo.
"My husband is registered in Lawton, and takes his orders from there," explains Yusimy. "Taimé and I are in a neighbor's book. Thanks to her we can buy milk, chicken, eggs ... "
The cases of these girls are just two examples. This type of situation is repeated daily, as the law is also applicable to Havana mothers. They have to sign their children up the Address Registry corresponding to them, even if they live in the baby's father's house.
Alina, a university professor with a Cotorro address, was unable to register her son in La Víbora, in her father's house, despite being legally married and residing there since her marriage.
"That law should disappear," she agrees. "The worst thing is not that it forces you to do a bunch of extra paperwork. The worst thing is that it is a sign of the absolute machismo that dominates our society. Not only does it undermine the value of marriage and cohabitation as a couple, but it also places all responsibility on the mother."