My Mistake on Entrepreneurship in Cuba

By Aurelio Pedroso

HAVANA TIMES – I feel I have the moral obligation to publicly confess my mistake. And I’m not embarrassed at all because this often happens in this profession, when you are navigating through these waters which, on occasions, demand foresight.

Not too long ago I upheld the idea, with humor and convinced that I could have hit the nail on the head, that we could expect the government to call upon each and every one of us who had a room available to fix them up immediately for visitors to rent in the face of the tourism boom. People would pay the corresponding taxes and would resolve – the magic word for day-to-day survival, things like bread – and other difficulties that month.

I wasn’t so far off the mark then. Back in the ’90s, I had the privilege of having access to detailed and competent multidisciplinary studies about tourist behavior and reactions in Cuba. I can remember them as if I were just reading them now. They showed that it was the Cuban people’s character which most impressed visitors, more than the country’s beaches, colonial sites, deep seas or any luxurious 5 star hotels.

And in the tourism sector, our authorities must know a lot of visitors prefer to stay at casas particulares (private rentals in Cuban family homes) even though they insist on disqualifying or ignoring it. And this doesn’t just happen in our country nor is it a peculiarity. In Greece, just to cite an example, visitors prefer to share the same roof as natives on their days off, resting and exploring.

No matter how hard I try, I still can’t find any sense in the latest decision to suspend or postpone giving out new licenses to private rentals, rooms or spaces in the face of so much need, and after so many years of them operating.

My father, with farmer origins, would have an explanation for this. In order to explain events of this nature, he used to remind us of the story of that hunting dog who, about to reach the wild hutia, stops what he’s doing because he has the urge to defecate.

My mother, on the other hand, educated practically under the robes of priests and warm nun dresses, but a fan of good popular music, would have mumbled a tune from the 1950s to me that suggests “get off this cloud and come back here to reality…”.

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Cuban farmers, Pinar del Rio. By John Niddrie (Canada). Camera: Canon EOS 6D

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