Havana’s Ice Cream Cathedral

By Daisy Valera

Waiting in line at Havana’s Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor.
Waiting in line at Havana’s Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor.

Coppelia is Havana’s most famous ice-cream parlor, both because of its size (it’s huge, almost a whole square block) and because it offers ice cream almost daily.

It’s made even more famous by the fact that you can buy the ice cream in regular national currency, as opposed to hard currency – a rare occurrence in this country.

Throughout the rest of the island the only option is to buy a pint cup of ice cream for 1.25 CUC (about $1.55 USD), which is a way of saying that eating ice cream in the provinces requires a true sacrifice.

Despite all this, Coppelia is not able to satisfy the demand of even Havana’s population.  The lines to get in are always immense, and you’re always uncertain if you’ll be able to enter to enjoy the treat.

To be told that you won’t be able to get ice cream after spending an hour under the Cuban sun is a serious concern, so there are constant arguments in the lines to see whose ahead of whom.

But for me what is most interesting about these lines are the people who meander around them selling cookies and candy.

They are well received since very seldom are these kinds of sweets sold inside the ice-cream emporium.

Notwithstanding, these vendors are quickly booted out by the police, to the chagrin of people waiting to enter.  No one can quite fathom the logic of this.

Nor can I understand how a group of people manage to concoct and offer sweets to those in the long line and there evidently is no government enterprise that could do so.

In addition, they are expelling vendors who are doing nothing more than trying to make ends come close.

Maybe it would better to hire them and make them workers, so they wouldn’t have to depend on their luck; instead, they would have steady jobs producing sweets.

Evidently nothing like this happens, so things stay the same: no sweets at Coppelia and we continue seeing the demoralization of people who – instead of being criminals – are simple workers.

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