14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 23 May 2018 — Bar Silvia is deserted. The closed doors inform customers who approach of the bad news, which quickly spread through the neighborhood. “The bar manager died in that plane,” neighbors tell each other, as if no other details are needed to explain what happened.
Yandro Enrique González Méndez, who died on Friday in the Cubana de Aviación crash, was the manager of this bar on a corner in Central Havana, which had become a major destination.
The bar, which for a long time had been known as “dead,” was reborn by the efforts of Gonzalez as a non-farm cooperative, a type of business arrangement for the self-employed promoted by Raul Castro’s government beginning in 2012.
In just under six years, more than 420 Non-farm Cooperatives (CNA) have been authorized in the country, with more than 12,000 members, the vast majority of them dedicated to food service, commerce, other services, construction and industry. Although the cooperatives are going through uncertain times because of the fear of an announcement of measures that would restrict their autonomy, that of the González brothers had the wind in its sails.
With its 15 seats around the bar in the shape of a knife on the fashionable corner of Vapor and Principe, the establishment attracted a parade of announcers and actors from nearby Radio Progreso, regulars from the surrounding neighborhood, and even ecstatic foreigners who came looking for the real authentic touch that Silvia’s still retains.
The corner was renewed. The facades etched by humidity received new paint and the wooden bar, polished by the elbows of its customers and their glasses, was restored. In a videoclip of the song Más Macarena*, recorded by Gente de Zona and Los Del Río, the transformation that was beginning was already visible. Above the bar is a tourist accommodation with large windows that rents through Airbnb.
Gonzalez and the employees managed to maintain the atmosphere of yesteryear, but added new features, such as a large television screen where people came to watch baseball and soccer games. “People who would never have stepped on this decadent site began to frequent it,” confirms Natacha, a young medical student who lives a few yards away.
Bar Silvia’s new managers exploited a part of the local folklore that revolves around their bar, a real tourist magnet. The recommendation of the house remained a double rum in cheap glasses.
The venue has also been the setting for numerous films (including Clandestinos, directed by Fernando Pérez), video clips and photo shoots for national and international fashion houses that have chosen that iconic corner as a backdrop.
Located between an agricultural market and a bodega, Bar Silvia is in the middle of the incessant coming and going of people who are sometimes looking to take a break and relax.
The Gonzalez family has spent these last days wrapped in mourning for the loss of the young man of 33, born in Manzanillo in the distant Granma province.
Since he settled in Havana with his parents when he was a child, life seemed to smile on Gonzalez. “Everything he achieved was thanks to his hard work and a natural ability to do business,” recalls Yosvani, a colleague with whom he attended high school.
The bar’s neighbors and the customers can hardly assimilate the news. “The whole neighborhood is very sad because that young man had rescued a place that until recently was very deteriorated.”
“Yandro fought hard to stay alive,” says a neighbor who looks out over one side of the bar from her balcony. “The family told us that he survived the plane crash and was one of the four people who were taken to the hospital, but he died on the way.”
*Translator’s note: Bar Silvia is the small building behind the pink car, at 1:28 in the video here.
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