Cuba Fast Food on Monte Street

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

HAVANA TIMES, March 15 — “El Rapido” (or “El Rapidito,” as it’s also known), is a chain of state-run, outdoor, fast-food restaurants here in Cuba.

They often have adjacent food service stands offering products both in national currency or hard currency CUCs, thus bridging the gap between the two.

These establishments have mushroomed throughout the capital city, and though they might differ in their structural designs, they’ve succeeded in firmly establishing themselves within our urban imagery.

Near the building where I live there’s one that has quite striking features. I’ll try to summarize it for the perspective of a pure spectator and not from that of a regular visitor.

Firstly, it’s located on a busy corner in Old Havana, near the famous “Parque de la Fraternidad” (Fraternity Park).

This downtown location, combined with the impoverished atmosphere that pervades the facility, has resulted in it becoming a focus of attention for a particular crowd in the area: drunks, apparently corrupt police officers, prostitutes, pimps, bums, con artists and junk collectors. In short, a whole range of characters that give life to our “El Rapido” nights.

The saddest thing isn’t merely the existence of this establishment where indigents, seamy characters and the destitute hang out, but that this isn’t the only such place.

Down-and-out bars abound throughout the city, clearly displaying the misery that shrouds the general population.

In addition, there’s the fact that one can see people begging or drunk all over town and at all hours of the day.

The solution of course isn’t to close these facilities; we know that the problem is much deeper and that its causes are going to be much more difficult to root out.

What’s more, if these places were to be eliminated, they’d only be replaced by others with similar features but with different names – as we’ve seen happen before.

The El Rapido on Monte Street is only one piece of evidence that the Cuba that’s peddled abroad is much more complex and painful than it appears.