Cuba’s Iconic Ice Cream Parlor Coppelia Closes Because ‘There is No Ice Cream, No Milk, No Sugar’

All Coppelia employees are on the street, selling the sweet treats they have left in stock. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 November 2023 —  The emblematic Coppelia ice cream parlor, located on L and 23, in the heart of Havana’s El Vedado, is closed on all four sides this Thursday, with the lights off and the tables cleared. Again, as was the case earlier this year, there is no ice cream.

A novelty, this time, is that all the employees are on the street, selling the sweet treats they have left in stock. Only marquesitas and capitolios, rough and tasteless, for 50 pesos. “There is no ice cream, there is no milk, there is no sugar, there is nothing,” one of the workers proclaimed with humor, responding with another question when asked when the establishment would reopen: “Oh, my love, in what country do you live?”

Other employees responded, dragging their feet, but suggesting that it won’t be soon: “It’s not known,” “This is for a long time,” “It won’t be around for a long time.”

A worker from the Coppelia ice cream factory itself, who asks to remain anonymous, confirms to this newspaper the dramatic situation in which the industry finds itself. “I know of colleagues who resold some of the ice cream we produced, but they hadn’t for months, because the product was of such poor quality that it wasn’t sold, it looked more like durofrío [popsicles] than ice cream.”

“We were quite indignant, they were letting us try that so that we would remember what real ice cream was”

According to the same source, last September, on the occasion of the G-77 Summit in Havana, a limited edition of Coppelia ice cream was made for guests at the official event and hotels. “They practically militarized the factory to prevent the employees from stealing some of the ice cream,” he says. “The day they were going to move the product, they allowed us workers to try a little dish of ice cream. We were quite indignant, they were letting us try it so that we would remember what real ice cream was.”

Called in Cuba the “cathedral of ice cream,” Coppelia was inaugurated in 1966 with the utopian objective that the Revolution would produce more and better flavors than in capitalist countries. Its splendor was brief, although not even during the crisis of the Special Period, in the 90s, when the quantity and quality of its offering drastically decreased, did the endless lines at its counters subside. Being the little that still functioned, the influx was enormous, and, once the circulation of the dollar was allowed, it was common to see foreigners entering with their currencies, to a better stocked area, without having to wait in line.

Its remodeling four years ago aroused much expectation, but could not stop the decline of the place. Since the covid-19 pandemic, when it was also closed due to measures to avoid contagion, it has not raised its head. The poor quality of the product and the high prices have been putting the final nails in the coffin of one of the symbols of triumphant Castroism.


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