14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 November 2023 – When it comes to ice cream and sweets, Cubans are true believers. On Tuesday, they lined up In front of Coppelia, Havana’s much-diminished “cathedral of ice cream,” which had been closed for several weeks. They had little reason to rejoice, however. The sluggish employees and poor service have been ridiculed by customers, who claim the only one thing that is back to normal is the long lines.
“There’s ice cream but no cookies,” an employee warns at Coppelia’s entrance. It has become common practice for the establishment’s staff to speak in negatives. When the closure was announced a few days ago, the explanation was equally concise: “There’s no ice cream, there’s no milk, there’s no sugar.
Customers have come up with an explanation for the staff’s lethargy. “They’ve spent so many days without work that they must have forgotten how to do it,” says one elderly woman in a loud voice, unconcerned whether the staff can hear her or not.
Customers come hoping to order the Palmero, an ice cream of slightly higher quality than the regular options, at a cost of 65 pesos a scoop. But anyone who manages to get past the “first circle” learns that, to enjoy it, she or he must first get a table at the Four Jewels, the closest thing Coppelia has to an exclusive seating area.
Those seated in the common area soon realize that their options are limited. The multi-scoop “mixed salad” is available but one customer complains that the only flavors she and her fellow customers have to choose from are vanilla and chocolate. As for the cookies — an accompaniement that goes well with the ice cream — she is out of luck. “They didn’t deliver any today; we’ll see about tomorrow,” says a waitress pessimistically.
“Tiny, bare-minimum scoops” says an elderly man, amazed at the staff’s ability to reduce the serving sizes. “More for them at the end of the day,” replies another.
At noon, students from nearby schools realize that the “cathedral” is open. The avalanche is unstoppable and the number of people in line triples in just a few minutes. The electronic payment terminals – made necessary by the government’s newly mandated digital banking regulations – are slow as evidenced by the long lines, which grow ever longer with every kilobyte the devices need to process.
Lines are not a problem in areas where customers must pay using foreign, hard-currency debit cards but people try to avoid digital banking transactions as much as they crave ice cream. When it finally hits the tongue, the palate immediately recognizes its mediocrity: “The same as always, neither good nor bad. But you have to kill your hunger.”
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.