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!”

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Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

Daisy Valera has 208 posts and counting. See all posts by Daisy Valera

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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