Post Authoritarianism in Cuba’s Tourism Sector

Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez

Brewery in Havana. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES – Some years ago, I heard say it is common for people working in the tourism sector not to know exactly how much they earn in a given month from their salary. Those who were talking about this concluded that those who seek to work in the sector do so in search of tips, the misappropriation of State and private assets and, in many cases, in order to establish a personal relationship with foreign guests, beyond the consumer – employee context.

This would make it easy to understand why tourism sector employees “forget what their salary is.” For them, payday is basically a ritual in which one’s status as an employee of the institution is renewed, and a kind of insurance policy that guarantees a more or less decorous financial future.

Those involved in this conversation didn’t question the legitimacy of this situation. Rather, they condemned the poor working conditions endured by sector employees, particularly the political coercion and workplace authoritarianism that their higher-ups (mostly retired military officers) practiced explicitly and with impunity.

That impunity, I thought to myself, also has to do with the arbitrary forms of blackmail these officials use against their subordinates, as administrators who willingly or unwillingly tolerate the mechanisms through which their employees secure illegal profits and which do not favor them directly.

I don’t believe the economic liberalization process now underway will bring about significant changes to this situation, at least not in the mid-term, particularly because the most basic forms of authoritarianism in the workplace remain intact despite the recent neo-liberal turn made by the regime.

Today, tourism industry employees are trained in special schools. There is even a university degree program aimed at training higher-ups and administrators professionally.

It would be interesting to know how the sophisticated rhetoric of “Service Sector Sciences” reconciles with workplace despotism, particularly as regards the design of the syllabus, or how the same imaginary is incorporated after Cuba’s future higher-ups have graduated, to combine the convoluted aesthetics of marketing with the most oppressive forms of Stalinist authoritarianism.

2 thoughts on “Post Authoritarianism in Cuba’s Tourism Sector

  • I’m sure it’s the same way in the U.S.

  • Many tourist – resaurant workers in Canada make more moey in tips than they earn in wages

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