In response to growing dissatisfaction, Castro worked diligently to broaden the social base of support for revolutionary policy.
Strenuous efforts were made to incorporate and mobilize the poor, dispossessed, and unemployed.
By 1960, there was a movement to eradicate slums, emphasizing self-reliance and mutual aid. New neighborhoods were constructed as replacement housing.
A Department of Physical Planning was created under the Ministry of Public Works.
The regime modified the architecture of Havana by promoting social, not socialist architecture, and it drew on a variety of architectural techniques and concepts.
The government initially built two large housing developments in the capital — East Havana — and El Cotorro — that were costly and still premised on Western middle-class design ideas.
El Cotorro was built to house industrial workers in the southeast of the city in order to reduce workers’ travel time and to ease congestion.
East Havana (Habana del Este) was constructed for the urban poor on land assembled for speculative purposes before the revolution.
Many of the first residents in such communities came from Las Yaguas, Luyano, and other sections of the city which had historically contained slum and squatter housing.
In his 1980 book, The People of Buena Ventura: Relocation of Slum Dwellers in Postrevolutionary Cuba, Douglas Butterworth notes:
It was with an invasion of squatters in the early 1930s that an area in Luyano, a dreary, industrialized sector of East Havana, developed into the settlement which became known as Las Yaguas. It claimed some 3,500 inhabitants at the time of the Revolution in 1959, most of whom were black.
Many of the early settlers in Las Yaguas came originally from rural regions of the island. Some also came from small towns. There was often a steplike movement of families from the countryside to a small town and then to one of the Havana solares (tenements) before the eventual move to Las Yaguas.
As soon as the old shantytowns were eliminated, however, new problems appeared.
Migrants attracted to the city from other areas of the island flooded into the neighborhoods of El Romerillo and La Corbata near the Columbia military base, the neighborhood of Atares adjacent to an old colonial castle, and to the area of La Guinera.
Overcrowding and quality-of-life problems soon became endemic in these areas.
Built in the Cold War years immediately after the Revolution, Habana del Este was situated on a beautiful site overlooking Havana Bay. The development contained 1,500 dwelling units, including diverse social and urban services.
The design did not entirely suit the resituated urban poor who were the initial residents of the complex.
Just as in the similar La Corbusier development in St. Louis, Missouri, many families were unaccustomed to apartment living, abused the buildings, and ultimately moved away.
The more educated families that replaced them seemed to find the area an attractive place to live. Nevertheless, since the project proved to be expensive, the government was not able to complete its plan to build an additional 100,000 dwelling units in the area.
By the mid 1960s, the government was emphasizing practical, functional, and more economical projects.
In many areas of the country, it turned to new low-cost production techniques such as the panel system NOVA, later renamed Sandino.
Using this prefabricated method, housing units were produced at a plant donated by the Soviet Union.
The most impressive project of this type is Alamar on the outskirts of Havana.
Photograph by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe.