Communism is a horrid experience for the regular folk who are subjected to a tyranny of enslavement, poverty, and a squalid conditions. For the elite, however, it is party time all the time.
Havana by night: As private bars boom, Cubans with money revel in fashionable social scene
HAVANA – It’s Saturday night at El Cocinero, a chic rooftop bar that has arguably become Havana’s hippest watering hole in the year since it opened, and there’s no getting in without a reservation.
There are plenty of foreigners, but also not a few sharp-dressed Cubans lounging in the butterfly chairs, sipping $3 mojitos and talking art, culture and politics. It’s an image that stands in stark contrast to common perceptions overseas of Communist Cuba as a poor country where nobody has the disposable income to blow on a night out.
“Where they get the money from, I don’t know, and I don’t have a crystal ball,” said one of the Cubans at the bar, Lilian Triana, a 31-year-old economist who works for the local offices of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. She suggested some may have relatives sending money from abroad.
Havana is seeing a boom in stylish, privately run bars and clubs like El Cocinero, evidence of a small but growing class of relatively affluent artists, musicians and entrepreneurs on an island where many people earn about $20 a month and depend on subsidized food, housing and transport to get by.
Cuba’s nouveau riche are coming out of the woodwork, if not quite flaunting their personal wealth.
Then there’s the art-world elite, which historically has been a core part of Cuba’s monied class. An artist who sells a single painting for a few thousand dollars or a musician who performs on an overseas tour is already earning hundreds of times what most Cubans make.
It’s a phenomenon that New York visual artist Michael Dweck documented in his 2011 book “Habana Libre,” the product of nearly three years photographing the unlikely fashionable lives of Havana’s hip creatives.
“They are part of the elite. Not because they are in banking or importing or real estate — these people are the creative class,” Dweck said. “There is a privileged class living a pretty good life in Havana, which is the opposite of what we were told as Americans about what’s going on in Cuba.”
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