Tag Archives: #Cuba #Havana #TheLastHonestManinHavana

Real Estate in Cuba: Location, Location and Restitution!

I love the idea of having a place in Cuba. Somewhere we could retire. Maybe do a restoration on a beautiful old place that’s falling down.

How about this one?


It’s just 850,000 CUC!

The laws surrounding real estate have changed drastically in the last few years. In The Last Honest Man in Havana, which is set between the late 80s and the early 90s, you couldn’t buy, sell or rent property legally. If you left the country, you walked away from everything. One couple in our family lost three apartments they inherited when they left. Maybe when things open up in Cuba, they can try to get compensation for the nationalization of their property.

And this is the main reason I’d never buy anything down there.

Whoever is selling you the property was probably not the original owner. I mean, the pre-revolutionary owner. And once things get turned around in Cuba, it’s likely that the descendants of that person will come back for restitution. I saw this happening first hand in the Czech Republic in the mid-nineties. Many families were in court fighting for compensation or trying to get properties back.

My husband’s step-mother sold her house to a Chinese national quite recently. He set his Cuban girlfriend up there. For now he’s okay. He won’t get squatters when he’s not around and the house was in fantastic condition when it sold so he won’t be scrambling around for hard-to-resource renovation materials.

But my step-mother-in-law didn’t move there until 1991. She got it in a permuta for two beautiful apartments in Vedado. One was a luxury penthouse apartment, complete with service elevator, that belonged to her father. The other belonged to my father-in-law.

 If things change, this Chinese businessman, may find his investment suddenly costs him quite a bit more. That will depend on the laws, the determination of the original owners or their descendants and their financial situations – because it will cost them too.





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Win a Free Book Through My Goodreads.com Giveaway!

I’m running a contest through Goodreads! I think this is such a fun idea. Readers from around the world will have a chance to win a copy of The Last Honest Man in Havana. So my dear friends in the U.S., Czech Republic, Finland, France, and Australia – this is for you too!


The contest opens on Sept. 13th and ends on Sept. 20th. Goodreads sends me the names of the winners and I send out the books. I’m going to try this and see what happens. Throwing this out to a sea of readers is like throwing a message in a bottle out into the ocean. Who knows where it will land? And that is the point. To make readers all over aware it exists.

If you’re not already using Goodreads.com, get on there! I’ve enjoyed many of the recommendations they’ve given me over the years. If you’d like to enter, there’s a link to the contest on the right side of the page. The contest opens on Sunday.

Good luck everyone! And please feel free to share this contest info with your friends:)


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Cuban Philately Providing Inspiration!

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If you’re from Cuba, you might remember that collecting stamps was really big there–especially in the 1970s. My husband collected a lot of stamps as a child and, of course, his mother never threw them out. A few years ago he brought them home to Canada and we actually have hundreds of groovy stamps from the 70s, like this one of Che above.

In my novel, The Last Honest Man in Havana, my character Rafael likes to doodle Che. Guess where I got that idea?

Since kids didn’t have many toys at that time – and stamps were cheap – I guess Fidel thought it would keep them busy.

The stamps cover so much history in Cuba and having a good look at them is actually quite educational! I like the baseball stamps:

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And then others are a little more eye-opening – celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Lenin’s death and the 30th Anniversary of winning the war against Fascism:Scan 2015-8-30 0029

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Some of them are cute and colourful:

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I think Camilo’s stamp would make a cool poster.

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I know nothing about stamps and have no idea if any of these are worth anything. Many are loose, in an envelope, and the others are glued into the old books. I’ve only scanned in some of the loose ones. A friend of mine has suggested I have the collection appraised. I had actually been cutting them up and using them in collages – oh dear!

But, regardless of their market value, I consider these tiny works of art a valuable piece of my husband’s history. They also provided me with some great insight into the mindset of the era.

If you would like to share any information about these stamps with me, please feel free!

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My Cuban Family

On my first trip to Cuba, in 1999, I was pregnant and meeting my in-laws for the first time. Normally, I would recommend a complete background check on potential in-laws before getting involved too deeply with anyone, but it was not possible for me. Anyway, when you’re really in love, you won’t care who they are.

You know I’m right.

Luckily, my mother-in-law, Edilia, was a lovely person. She lived in Playa, Havana, with Salva, her partner of two decades, in the tiny starter apartment she’d moved into with her first husband, Amaro. This is Edilia and Amaro on their wedding day below.

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I love the flowers at this wedding.

By the time I got to Cuba, Amaro had passed away. But the pile of photos Edilia had saved in a flimsy plastic bag gave me an incredible look at what their lives had been like. She had some great shots like this one from 1952 at El Club Militar y Naval in Nautico.

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This one of her and her friends during Carnaval.

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And this one from her own quincenera.

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But when I started asking about all the people in these photos, I learned they had all left Cuba. The only people remaining from the photo above were Edilia and her sister, Bertha, who is at her right. It was incredible. Ruly and Chuchi, her brothers, both left Cuba in 1959 after the family’s electronics business was “nationalized.”

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They hadn’t seen Chuchi for 40 years.

Edilia and Bertha also wanted to leave, but their husbands didn’t and they wouldn’t allow them to leave the country with their children.

This had been a very close-knit family that clearly loved each other a lot. Learning of their situation was upsetting. So I asked Edilia if I could take some photos home with me. We copied a beautiful photo of the four children and their parents, their parents’ wedding photos and some others. Then we mailed them off to Puerto Rico and Illinois.

The response was overwhelming. Both men called my husband, crying and thanking us for the photos. They framed them and hung them on the walls. Chuchi said he knew he would meet his parents again in heaven.

Two years later, when Edilia came to stay with us in Halifax, she was reunited with her brothers and one of her nephews! They laughed and cried together for a whole week, telling stories and reliving their happy childhoods.

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Every one of them is gone now. And I am so happy I was able to play a little part in this reunion. I believe the separation and destruction of families is one of Fidel Castro’s crimes. Unfortunately, it’s one he will never answer for.

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