“And Here They Are Trampling on the People”: Housing, Urbanization, and Revolution in Cuba

City Seminar 2022: The Divided City

How did the 1959 Cuban Revolution impact the urban housing crisis in Cuba? The notion that housing is a human right was a central pillar of revolutionary ideology. In service to this idea, the new government ostensibly banned evictions in 1959 and nationalized all urban rental property in 1960 with the intent to provide every Cuban with a decent home. But what was the lasting impact of these policies? As Cuban cities fell into neglect and disrepair in the decades that followed, the island’s most vulnerable citizens, including large numbers of Afrocubans, were forced to build illegal communities and face down government demolition brigades as they made claims to the city. Examining their struggles helps us understand how the revolutionary mission to create universal housing access functioned at the ground level.

Meet the Speakers:

William Kelly is the ACLS Emerging Voices Fellow 2021-2022 at the Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St Louis

Alejandro Velasco (Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, Associate Professor of History, NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study) is a historian of modern Latin America whose research and teaching interests are in the areas of social movements, urban culture and democratization.  His book, Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela (University of California Press, 2015), couples archivial and ethnographic research to examine how residents of Venezuela's largest public housing community pursued full citizenship during the heyday of Latin America's once-model democracy.

Kimberly Zarecor (Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at Iowa State University) has been teaching courses in architectural history and design since 2005.  Her historical research examines the cultural and technological history of architecture and urbanism in the former Czechoslovakia.  Her new research is about quality of life in small and shrinking rural communities in Iowa.