Ice Cream from the Leader

Erasmo Calzadilla

We youth will not fail.

Havana’s giant Copelia ice-cream parlor is like a Cuba in miniature.  During the moments you spend eating ice cream there, you can find the same symptoms of deterioration in the services as those existing in any other corner of the country.

There’s corruption, apathy, lack of hygiene (the employees serve the cookies by hand after handling the money); people’s resignation, as they quietly accept almost anything, etc., etc.

At this open-air facility, they constantly fire employees who want to “get rich” quick, though the problem reemerges once and again, as occurs with anything that has a structural problem.

It reached the point a few weeks ago that the Copelia seemed to be sinking like the Titanic, but it seems that to the rescue has come a messiah: Tavo.

Copelia mural.

“Tavo” (short for Octavio) is a famous TV police agent who a few years ago infiltrated groups of suspected criminals and broke up their operations (networks that were re-connected as soon he turned his head).

Perhaps it was precisely because of his ability to deal with “criminals” that he was selected to administer this central ice-cream parlor.

The former agent has been able to reduce the level of blatant mismanagement and the services are now better, at least that was what I noted during my last few visits.

However, in exchange for this palliative (I say palliative because it’s the structure itself that generates criminals, and that hasn’t changed), Octavio has filled our Copelia with the faces and quotes of the Castro brothers.

On a mural, we are reminded that Fidel was the person who led the initiative to build the Copelia.  In another place, situated exactly in front of the counter, are hosts of identical posters of Fidel declaring, “The youth won’t fail.”

Raul and Fidel Castro

And just in the central column of this ice-cream parlor —located in the center of the Vedado district, which is in turn the cultural center of the capital, with the capital being the country’s economic and political center— is plastered a photo of Fidel, still the head of the Communist Party, and his brother, the president, both in military uniforms.

People go up and down “the Tower” (the top floor) distracted by the flavor of the ice cream, but  displayed there is big brother holding up the tower, and holding up everything else, according to the image of the world visually imposed on us by Tavo, in exchange for better service.

It could be that Tavo feels supremely revolutionary in filling the Copelia with portraits of heroes, but the cult of personality, messiahship, iconophilia and the hollow phrases have nothing to do with being revolutionary, neither here nor in Alaska.

One thought on “Ice Cream from the Leader

  • All this iconography has given me an idea–though perhaps one in extremely poor taste; not a good omen for something which should taste good! Instead of yet another “Che” t-shirt, why not a “Che” Sundae? Starting with an oval/head-shaped scoop of ice-cream, a chocolate-syruped beard could be added, then a berret on top and a chocolate-covered pretzel (representing a cigar), etc. Like the consumption of the wafer during Catholic Mass, the eating of the “Che” Sundae could symbolize the transubstantiating of Revolutionary Ideals!

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