This past January 7th was my 23rd birthday, and I celebrated it in a way typical of a little girl: I went to an amusement park.
After traveling on a bus for about 45 minutes, I made it to the outskirts of Havana’s Playa municipality, the location of the Isla de Coco, a recreational complex that opened a few years ago.
The price of admission is only a peso (five cents USD), and if you look to the right while walking toward the rides you can see the sea. The atmosphere makes you think you really are on a little island.
The whole place is adorned with Cuban cartoon characters: Captain Plin along with a green cat wearing a red beret and who’s fighting the also present pirates, which are rats who want to take over the Isla de Coco.
Also present is a giant Elpidio Valdes, Cuba’s most famous cartoon character, a “mambi” independence fighter struggling against the Spanish during the island’s colonial epoch.
On the carrousel are present the rest of the characters of that saga, and I believe it’s the only one in Cuba where children have a chance to ride “Palmiche” (Elpidio’s horse).
Other characters there were ones from the “The Adventures of Yeyin” cartoon (about a kind of cosmonaut).
Children and adults alike were kept in mind when designing most of the rides: a roller coaster, bumper cars, flying elephants and small airplanes that travel at astonishing speeds.
Despite the newness of the place, one can already find some rides that no longer work: a rocket that makes a 360 degree turn, a big ship that makes a semicircular movement and has flying seats.
These are out of service, and judging by experience they’ll be this way for a long time to come. The reason might be a lack of spare parts or not knowing how to fix them.
The point is that the Isla de Coco is starting to deteriorate.
There also exists a relatively varied selection of food: sodas, hot dogs and ham sandwiches, chocolate and cookies.
I was able to get on five rides – the less dangerous ones (I’m not brave when it comes to height and speed).
I ended up exhausted after having a lot of fun, but on the way back home I couldn’t help but to do the math.
I spent 28 pesos to get on the machines (a single ride can cost 6 pesos, a price that’s higher than at any other comparable park here).
By having a snack — something light, only a roll and a soda — I spent 15 pesos, bringing the total to 43 pesos.
Now, if we think of a family of four, even if like me they didn’t get on all the rides and if each only had a basic a snack, the minimum cost would be around 140 pesos. That translates into 55 percent of the monthly Cuban minimum wage.
So I wondered: Is the Isla de Coco within the reach of most Cubans?
I decided to respond in the fashion of our dear Elpidio Valdes: “That remains to be seen compay!”