Going to a Restaurant

Jorge Milanes

Havana's Inglaterra Hotel. Photo: Caridad

If someone invites me to a restaurant in Havana, I don’t hesitate to accept.  It’s tempting especially if this involves a restaurant that sells in convertible pesos (CUCs), where supposedly the service is first class.  Knowing only that I’ll eat something other than what I usually eat at home, I’m the first one there.

“Do you know a good restaurant where we can go for dinner tonight?” asked my neighbor who just arrived from Switzerland a few days ago with her husband and two children.  “And if you want to come, we’re inviting you?” she added.

“I think I know some, but they’re expensive,” I replied.

She —when hearing the word “expensive”— looked over at her husband and continued, “So…how expensive are they?”

“Well, for me it’s expensive, because I can’t pay for a 15 CUC meal and leave a tip as well, if we’re talking about the kind of restaurant you want,” I explained to them as they listened attentively.

“So is the tip required?” she asked astonished.

“No, but the server always expects one, and there’s sometimes a Cuban group playing traditional music to liven the place up in exchange for people buying their CDs, otherwise you have to leave a gratuity.”

“And that tip, what does it run?” she continued inquisitively.

“It depends on the restaurant and the quality of the service.  There are those who feel such pleasure with the atmosphere and service that they leave large tips, others leave less or nothing.”

“That was what we wanted to know,” she then told me confidently.

“Can you go or not?” she asked. “We want to go with someone who knows Havana.”

“Yes, of course,” I answered delighted.

“At what time should we come by to pick you up?”


Their decision was so firm and explicit that I was surprised; I couldn’t imagine that tonight was mine.  She gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me, “Prepare yourself, tonight we’re going to party.”

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

3 thoughts on “Going to a Restaurant

  • Just to clarify, my understanding of Marx is that the state is necessary to undo damage already done by the state in creating the Capitalist economic order. Which is ultimately true, even if you believe in cooperatives, because you still need the statist intervention to redefine property and sieze the means of production in the hands of capitalists to get redistributed to the workers.

    Also, I dont know if the argument is even germane to the original article anyhow. I just wanted to make that point.

  • Where exactly did Marx and Engels redefine socialism as narrow statism? Clearly the state is an essential part of a “socialist revolution”. They see socialist statism as a stepping stone to stateless Communism, and Marx and Engels themselves were no great lovers of the state. The state itself, they argue, is the creator, ultimate creditor, and guarantor of the Capitalist model. However, it was Lenin who incorporated his dictatorship.. That was much later than Karl Marx.

    Anyways, interesting story. The social divisions in Cuba are sort of laid bare, with those who have access to foreigners getting access to more luxuries.

  • Regarding the reportedly miserable state of restaurant service in Cuba, a few words should be said in defense of “real” socialism.

    Real socialism, that is the original cooperative vision of a post-capitalist republic, did not even dream of discouraging or disallowing privately-owned restaurants to exist. It was envisioned instead that such small businesses would proliferate and prosper greatly under socialism. And there was a very good reason for this understanding.

    Under cooperative socialism the industrial working class would come into direct, cooperative ownership of the major means of production, and their incomes would be far in excess of what they were under capitalism. Where would the workers and their families spend this greater income? One place, of course, would be restaurants–as well as all sorts of shops and places owned and operated by small, private business owners.

    Then, Engels and Marx came in and redefined socialism as narrow statism.

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