The New Neighborhood Grill

Regina Cano

Except from my childhood memories and the same reference made in a story by the now-deceased Cuban writer Manuel Cofiño about the El Madrid Café (except for the distance from here), I had never felt what I did when visiting the grill of one of the new generation of self-employed workers businesses near my house.

The man attending the public and his wife — in charge of the kitchen — were equipped with the best of smiles and a stock of supplies that included a grill for heating up snacks, cucumbers and pickled peppers, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, butter, several dressings and the blessing of a nice breeze that passed through the small shelter under the trees.

The place was made of iron panels, corrugated steel and wood in the rear part of their house (a micro-brigade apartment in Alamar).

In the day they sell light, fresh food that’s pretty tasty, and the place is kept orderly and clean.

The conversation began because, after tasting my first glass of tamarind juice, I requested a second from him.  With that he took advantage of the chance to tell me: “I knew it!  I knew when you tried the first one, for sure you’d have a second.  That’s what always happens.”

After that, we continued talking.

He told me that he wasn’t in any hurry and that the beginning of this period of new self employed operations like this would be marked by many failures, but that what he and his wife were hoping for as their first goal was to survive the avalanche of competition.

They knew they wouldn’t bring in a lot of profit initially, but that when the competition began to fold then the time would come for things to stabilize and start earning.

He held that this beginning would require patience, and that being supplied with fruit planted in the yards of neighboring families would guarantee them lower costs for juices and fruit sodas – the products most asked for by consumers given the heat here (Alamar is like a huge open field with few places for shelter from the sun).

He told me that he wasn’t the type to get discouraged easily, and that while the others might not have thought things out well, he had.

 

Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.


2 thoughts on “The New Neighborhood Grill

  • May 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm
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    Thank u, Regina, for this snapshot of the further Cuban experiment in socialism.

    And thank u, casey strong, for your comments. I venture to say that u understand instinctively the true basis of a workable form of socialism.

    The problem of workable socialism is to bring all productive sectors into the social transformation. Historical experience shows that this cannot be accomplished by the state owning everything, and the price-setting mechanisms of the trading market being decommissioned.

    As casey strong says: “Small Business is the Economic engine of any Country; the benefits that come from a thriving small business sector are huge and will change Cuba for the better.”

  • May 29, 2011 at 8:40 am
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    I wish only the most positive of outcomes for this new business Owner.
    But the road ahead for all new start up business is full of peril. In Canada the failure rate of new business is 70%-80% in the first year and some would say this may be even higher in the food services sector.

    But this should not discourage anyone from trying to launch a new business.
    Perserverance good product and an ability to stand through the tough times will result in success.

    I feel that this new direction in Cuban Economic and Business policy is very positive, there will be growing pains and failures but there will also be success for many.

    Small Business is the Economic engine of any Country the benefits that come from a thriving small business sector are huge and will change Cuba for the better.

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