Saturday, July 12, 2014

Is Varadero for People of Another Social Class?

Cuba: Is Varadero for People of Another Social Class? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on July 11, 2014

Under a brightly colored umbrella, a representative of Gaviota, a
tourism chain, the property of businessmen in the Cuban military, offers
an inclusive leisure package for the summer.

The bureau of reservations is nestled in an old parking lot of a strip
mall in 5th Avenue and 42nd, Miramar, to the west of Havana.

It is Saturday. There is a festive atmosphere: Kiosks selling popcorn,
sandwiches, and frozen pizzas that are heated in the microwave and taste
like plastic. Meanwhile, flat screen televisions are airing the World
Cup soccer matches in Brazil.

There has to be music. Randomly situated speakers amplify too loudly the
current hit, Bailando, by Enrique Iglesisas, Descemer Bueno, and People
of the Zone.

In the tourism bureau everything is a hustle. Over a table, public
pamphlets of "all-inclusive" hotels in Varadero, Cayo Coco, or Santa Lucia.

Past nine-thirty in the morning they begin to see clients. The personnel
are friendly with Colgate smiles and a commercial diction learned
through quick marketing courses.

The representatives of each chain wear differently colored shirts:
Gaviota, green; Cubanacan, red; Havanatur, yellow, and Isla Azul, white.
Why speak of the price? Two nights in the hotel Bella Costa de Varadero,
240 CUC. A weekend in the beach Ancon, Sancti Spiritus, 380 cuc. Recall
that the average monthly salary in Cuba is 20 convertible pesos.

Like anywhere else in the world, the hotels cost according to their
glamour and five-star rating. In a queue to make reservations of nine
people there is only one black woman.

The rest are white. Two foreigners with Cuban "girlfriends" with
extremely long nails, tiny shorts, and high heels, probably prostitutes,
choose the Pesquero Beach, in the eastern province of Holguin, where
they hope to drink mojitos and relax in beach chairs.

A Cuban-American residing in Coconut Grove, Miami-Dade, wishes to rent
in a four-star hotel in Varadero for a week. "My family is from a
mountainous area in Santiago de Cuba. Everything is going well for me in
the United States. There is no one better with whom to share my
vacations than with them."

When it is his turn, the shrewd representative of Gaviota makes an
offer: "Almost impossible, this is a hotel that specializes in family
services. It is ranked second in preference within Varadero. You will
thank me," signals the vendor with engrossing confidence.

It has been ten years since she has visited Cuba and she debates between
the unplanned expenses and her poor parents, who spend their vacations
watching TV and relieving themselves from the heat with a chinese fan.
She gives in to the commercial coaxing of the type of expert who draws
money from clients.

"By the end I wasted two thousand CUC for eight nights and four rooms in
El Patriarca, a five-star hotel. It is worth distracting my family. Cuba
is not doing well. Whatever one does for the family will be too little,"
she says, and stores away her reservation in her bag.

Natacha, from the Cubanacan chain, knows how to handle all types of
clients. "We win our commission for every sold package. The cheapest are
the Spanish, they always have been, but now with their financial crisis
they like to buy cheaply. The Canadians and the Russians pay without
joking. The Cuban-Americna or other American we attract once in a while,
will even leave tips."

Two married doctors who worked for two years in South Africa, while
drinking Corona beers, are enthralled while listening to a tourism
operator who proposes an offer in Cayo Coco, Ciego de Avila, 500
kilometers from Havana.

"After working in such alienated places we deserve a good vacation. With
the money we collected we could repair the house and buy appliances for
the house. We thought of acquiring a car, but after the government
annulled the special right to doctors, it is impossible to buy a car
with the current prices. We therefore decided to rent 4 nights in Cayo
Coco," recounts the married couple.

The black woman is an engineer. Since 2010 she tends to stay two or
three days in an "all-inclusive" hotel in Varadero. This season she
could rent 5 nights in Melia Marina Varadero. This cost here 822 cuc.

"With my salary of 500 Cuban pesos and 27.50 CUC monthly I would never
be able to. Thanks to the grandmother of my daughter who resides in
Europe and my husband, who is working for himself, we can spend some
time in a hotel in Varadero," she expresses.

If you leave the commercial complex in 5th and 42, Miramar, and arrive
at the center of Havana, in corners within dangerous neighborhoods you
will see young people chatting about soccer or making plans to make money.

They are hardened by their marginal existence. They know where drugs are
sold and often spend nights throwing dice in an illegal gaming house.
They are also experts in proposing sex with boys or girls and sell
fashionable clothes. When you ask them where they will spend their
vacations they look at you as if you were an alien.

"Are you kidding, brother? Vacations for us mean having money in our
pockets, drinking beer, talking about nothing or going out with an
American. If we can lunch or dine as God wishes we are happy. We
entertain ourselves watching sports on the television and when it is hot
we go the beaches in the east, we take a shower and down a whole liter
of white rum. Neither Varadero or Cayo Coco is in our plans. That is for
people of higher social standing."

Ivan Garcia

Notes by Tania Quintero

The five-star Hotel Melia Marina Varadero was inaugurated in July 2013
and included in its attractions is a harbor with a capacity to dock
1,200 yachts, which will grow to 3,000 boats of small, medium, and large

Situated in the Hicacos Peninsula, Matanzas, 150 kilometers east of
Havana, expect 423 rooms and one condominium with 126 one- and
two-bedroom apartments. This hotel is the 26th establishment by the firm
Melia Hotels International, which in May 10 1990 inaugurated in Varadero
as its first hotel in Cuba, the Sol Palmeras. Melia is the foreign hotel
chain with greatest presence in Cuba. In 2016 it will open a hotel in
the colonial city of Trinidad, in the central south of the island.

Currently, 60 hotels are administered by 16 foreign chains, among which
is the Portuguese Pestana, which in August 2013 started its operations
in Cuba with the opening of Pestana Cayo Coco Beach Resort, a four-star
hotel located in the Jardines dle Rey, keys which are north of the
province, Ciego de Avila.

The last one to join the list is the Swiss empire, Kempinski Hotels,
founded in 1897, and with more than 80 luxury hotels in the world.
Kempinski acquired the rights to administer and commercialize the hotel
that was constructed in the old Manzana de Gomez, in the heart of
Havana, to be inaugurated in October 2016.

The main national operator is the Group of Tourism Gaviota S.A.,
property of the Ministry of the Armed Services. As of 2008, the Cubans
can stay in any hotel or tourism facility…. as long as they pay in Cuban
convertible pesos, the Creole hard currency. Three years later, in 2011,
BBC World informed that after the Canadians, the main group of tourists
in Cuba were the Cuban citizens from the islands and the immigrants who

We recommend the lecture series in 10 posts dedicated to Varadero, that
during October 7-28, 2013 was published on "The Blog" by Ivan Garcia and
his friends, among these the last two, "Memories" and "Varadero, where
Benny found peace."

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

25 June 2014

Source: Cuba: Is Varadero for People of Another Social Class? / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba -

No comments:

Post a Comment