Prohibition at G Street, Havana

Ernesto Carralero Burgos

G St. Park Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — Havana’s renowned Parque G has been under a “local Prohibition” for some weeks now.

After some time away, I went to G Street with some friends, only to find that the food and drinks stand located at the intersection of 23rd Street (usually teeming with people) was empty. There were no alcoholic beverages on its shelves.

Across the street, at the Casa Balear bar, with the exception of those cocktails that once cost 15 pesos and whose price has been bumped up to 20, all other drinks had also been taken away.

At the gas station on 23rd street (which was also empty), before we could even ask, the clerk said to us with a tired tone of voice:

“Kids, don’t go anywhere else. No alcohol can be sold on G Street on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. The decision came from the top.”

It was true. With the exception of the Casa Balear, the Literary Café (baptized as the “Rock Hangout” by its regulars) and the Castillo de Jagua restaurant (where prices are sky-high), no other establishments were authorized to sell alcoholic beverages. The three establishments above were only allowed to serve cocktails, forcing anyone interested in drinking to remain in the premises.

In addition, those who sell homemade wine in the area have been forced to retreat owing to the increased police presence there.

Those who sell wine at home, even the legendary 666 (a registered trademark for the park’s regulars) have discontinued their sales because of State harassment.

Not even the clerks at these establishments know whether this is a permanent or transitory measure.

It is true that alcoholism rates in Cuba are alarming, but I fear this measure isn’t even aimed at this concrete problem. Rather, it seems to be another attempt at dismantling the space rock enthusiasts have made for themselves.

How else can we explain the fact that the prohibition only applies to G street and excludes local bars, where a drink costs anywhere from 20 Cuban pesos to 2 dollars, or that the city’s discos and places like the “Amphitheater”, where people from the “projects” meet (places that tend to be violent) have not been affected by the measure?

The atmosphere that reigns at Parque G has always bothered the authorities. The current measure only applies on weekends, which is when most people gather there.

They are trying to take apart that space or to bother those there, as anyone who wants to drink need only walk to the area near Coppelia, where everything continues to work as usual. Perhaps the idea is to increase the profits of other establishments.

At any rate, I don’t think they’ll achieve anything other than make the establishments in question, and the people who made a living catering to the existing demand, lose money. No park regular will stop going there because of these new restrictions. Most of the authentic “rock enthusiasts” I know don’t even drink.

People don’t go to G Street only to sit on the grass and drink. They also go there to be free, and that is more important than any drink.

All the while, a drunken elderly man climbs up a tree to the applause of his peers and someone offers him a sip of Havana Club. The police look on from a distance – they are less popular than ever today. Nothing has changed. To paraphrase a popular Cuban song, “the park is the same as always.”