Saturday, December 8, 2012

Entrepreneurs lead Cuba's new revolution – from spas to drag nights

Entrepreneurs lead Cuba's new revolution – from spas to drag nights

When Raúl Castro relaxed the laws on private enterprise in 2010 he
sparked an explosion in services tailored to tourists in Cuba
Fiona McAuslan
The Guardian, Friday 7 December 2012 22.45 GMT

"Clown, magician, party quizmaster", reads the list of positions for
which self-employed licences are available to enterprising Cubans. The
opportunities for private sector jobs are myriad since the change in the
law in 2010 allowed private enterprise to flourish. While options like
these may well be lucrative career choices it is undoubtedly businesses
that give Cubans access to the tourist dinero that are most sought.

In a country that is as body beautiful as Cuba it's little surprise that
there's been a surge in private spas. Conner Gorry, born in New York but
living in Cuba and author of the Havana Good Time app says: "State
massage venues and gyms have always been popular but now these very
smart and well-run, private spas are now driving competition." With
services that range from Swedish massage to yoga classes and indoor
cycling she rates O2, (Calle 26B #5, +53 7883 1663) as one of Havana's

Activities such as independent scuba diving tours and private dance
groups are part of the burgeoning private sector. On a trip this year,
travel journalist Claire Boobbyer found that Julio Muñoz's horseback
tours (+53 41 993673) through the beautiful countryside near Trinidad
were far better than the state options.

Havana's famously lively nightlife scene is also changing. Locals –and
in-the-know tourists – now head to the independently run Fashion Bar
(Kessell #52, Vibora Park, +53 7 644 2894). This supper club bursts its
glittery seams with the best of the capital's formidable drag queen
talent and is popular enough to warrant a strict reservations policy –
still something of a rarity in Cuba.

Low taxation is also fuelling the boom: in order to boost private sector
revenue the government has either suspended or reduced taxes. This is
set to change early next year when full taxation will gradually be
rolled out. It's inevitable that some less profitable businesses will
fall by the wayside but until then the spirit of free enterprise courses
through this socialist stalwart.

• Fiona is co-author of The Rough Guide to Cuba

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