Between the ugly concrete buildings and the mansions with gardens, timid spaces for entertainment are emerging. A neighborhood that for decades was condemned to nocturnal boredom, a slice of the bedroom city, now sees glowing signs and bars offering drinks springing up here and there. Comfortable cafes, bars, gyms, and hairdressers flourish with the rebirth of self-employment. Among today’s entrepreneurs, few were a part of the wave of tiny private businesses that appeared in the mid-nineties. So they have no memory of the trauma of being shut down, of governmental will strangling them with high taxes, absurd restrictions, and excessive inspections.
Along with the timbiriches — the tiny businesses with few resources — places are also opening that compete in beauty and efficiency with the best hotel on the Island. Works of art on the walls, carved wood furniture, lamps made to order by local artisans, are some of the details this new class of impresarios use to decorate their premises. Word spreads quickly: “They’re opening a Mexican restaurant on that corner”… “A Swedish chef has come to give classes to cooks planning to open sites in Central Havana”… “On that balcony they serve the most exquisite paella in the country.” It would seem that such an influx of creativity is unstoppable and that they will not be able — as they did in the past — to cut off a sector whose quality exceeds the State establishments.
The neighborhood has become a destination for people after they leave 23rd Street or the Malecon in search of recreation. But a certain uneasiness still keeps us from enjoying the impeccable tablecloths and the waiters in ties; some questions wash over us with every spoonful we taste: Will they survive? Will they let them exist, or will they return to eliminate them?