La Rosa Negra (The Black Rose) / Rebeca Monzo

It isn’t a title of a movie or a novel.  It is a bar/restaurant/cafeteria, recently opened in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood.

They opened hardly 15 days ago and all day it is completely full.  The hook?  Their prices and the quality of their offerings.  With this new example of private initiative, it is demonstrated that, when the businesses have owners and they have an open mind, things work.  Those young investors began working some months ago, to convert an immense parking lot, with the enthusiasm that gives them a feeling of being part of something, and they were transforming something little by little into a pleasant business, with great intentions, but comfortable, with good taste, good cooking and magnificent offerings.

Given that this is a neighborhood that is characterized by its large number of private home rentals, from 8 in the morning they start offering exquisite breakfasts, at modest prices, if they compare with the competition, and moreover, if you take into account that businesses where one can get supplies at wholesale prices still don’t exist in our country. New entrepreneurs are forced to acquire supplies in stores and farmers markets, where the rest of the population buys, something that keeps them from lowering their prices even more.

The success of this new establishment has obligated the competitors to improve their offerings and lower their prices a little, but even so, they maintain the leadership in this type of business. Other restaurants exist in the neighborhood, but more luxurious with an international menu of high-class cooking, whose prices are too high for the meager pocketbooks of Cubans.  That is why those are frequented mostly by foreigners.

Up until now, La Rosa Negra is the only place where they offer various types of coffee at 15 cents CUC* per cup.  The most expensive dishes, which are the shrimp and filet of veal, cost less than 5 CUC.  The drinks are prepared individually, a difference from the state establishments, according the clients request and almost all cost only 95 cents CUC, including the famous piña colada.  Here the price of a tasty dish of “Ropa Vieja” (a Cuban dish of shredded beef over tortillas over rice) with two sides to choose from is 3.95 CUC, and it tastes like what our grandmothers made.

Those young people are demonstrating what the initiative and drive of the citizen — crushed and hibernated for more than a half century — can accomplish; demonstrating now in a new awakening, that if it isn’t all as free as one would desire, at least they’re trying; that the only thing that truly functions is the law of supply and demand, also creating new jobs, to give the possibility to others to show their qualities and aptitudes, getting a better paid employment.

And, dear readers, let it be clearly understood, they didn’t give me a commission for this. It is just that these new winds of private initiative give me satisfaction and pride.

*Translator’s note: Cuba has two currencies. The CUC, or Cuban Convertible Peso (which is NOT convertible on the world currency market), which is worth roughly one U.S. dollar, and the Cuban Peso, or “National Money” which is worth about 4-5 cents U.S. Salaries (rarely exceeding $20 U.S. a month) are paid in the latter, while many goods are only available in hard currency stores for the former.

Translated by: BW

December 13 2011