Yoani Sanchez – Award-Winning Cuban Blogger
Will Cuba's Expanding Experiment in Capitalism Be Allowed to Continue?
Posted: 11/26/11 02:21 PM ET
Between the ugly concrete buildings and the mansions with gardens, timid
spaces for entertainment are emerging. A neighborhood that for decades
was condemned to nocturnal boredom, a slice of the bedroom city, now
sees glowing signs and bars offering drinks springing up here and there.
Comfortable cafes, bars, gyms, and hairdressers flourish with the
rebirth of self-employment. Among today's entrepreneurs, few were a part
of the wave of tiny private businesses that appeared in the
mid-nineties. So they have no memory of the trauma of being shut down,
of governmental will strangling them with high taxes, absurd
restrictions, and excessive inspections.
Along with the timbiriches — the tiny businesses with few resources —
places are also opening that compete in beauty and efficiency with the
best hotel on the island. Works of art on the walls, carved wood
furniture, lamps made to order by local artisans, are some of the
details this new class of impresarios use to decorate their premises.
Word spreads quickly: "They're opening a Mexican restaurant on that
corner"… "A Swedish chef has come to give classes to cooks planning to
open sites in Central Havana"… "On that balcony they serve the most
exquisite paella in the country." It would seem that such an influx of
creativity is unstoppable and that they will not be able — as they did
in the past — to cut off a sector whose quality exceeds the State
The neighborhood has become a destination for people after they leave
23rd Street or the Malecon in search of recreation. But a certain
uneasiness still keeps us from enjoying the impeccable tablecloths and
the waiters in ties; some questions wash over us with every spoonful we
taste: Will they survive? Will they let them exist, or will they return
to eliminate them?