Rachel Díaz, a young mother with a very sick six-year-old son, has been under constant threat of being forcibly removed ever since she moved into an abandoned state building on the Calle Figura in Central Havana in mid-May last year.
The site, an immense warehouse abandoned years ago, is in very bad shape, with poor ventilation and lighting. It is dank, with leaks from the roof, but there Díaz found something she had never had before: privacy and space to be with her son.
"Three months or so after being here, they left me alone, and after six the mayor of Havana promised me that they would build me an apartment, but never followed through. The district delegate, Noelia Concepción, has always wanted to drive me out of here, and now she's filed a complaint with the Police for alleged damages, because I had to put some wooden beams on the door to protect myself, after several attempted robberies," Diaz explained about the ordeal she has endured over the last year as a squatter and a mother.
"Mayor Rodolfo changed his tune again and, in early June, told me that soon they're coming to get me, but I refuse to leave this place, because I have nowhere else to go, and they're not taking into account that I have a child with several serious health problems," says this mother.
"My child sometimes has self-inflicted wounds, is very irritable, lacks control of his sphincter, has vision problems, and learned to walk at age five. The doctors have never given me an accurate diagnosis of why he has all these conditions. I've asked for help many times to treat my son, and I've never received anything, and I find it totally inhumane for them to do this to me, " Díaz said.
The phenomenon of "squatting mothers" has been spreading across Cuba due to the shortage of homes suffered by many families and the danger of them collapsing after decades without maintenance.
Many of these women do not find a place in state shelters, overwhelmed by the number of families that have been left homeless and have been waiting for solutions to their cases for decades.
It is in the capital of the country, due to its population density, where these events are most common, especially in Old Havana and Central Havana, due to how old most of the buildings are, many built in the 19th century.
Depending on the State's interest in the premises where the mothers are squatting, they are either forcibly removed, or, after threats and attempts to evict them, finally left alone.