My Visit to Coconut Island

Daisy Valera

Photo by Sonia Kovacic

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!”

One thought on “My Visit to Coconut Island

  • Hey: no money — no funny. Same old same-old.

    But I do hope they fix — and expand — the place. However, such an enterprise/economic unit should be the legal, physical concern of the democratic workers’ councils which should be running the area — and not of the government of the island: which clearly can’t focus on so many things at this economic level.

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