The Gastronomic Slums / Fernando Dámaso

Photograph by Rebeca

In the section Acuse de Recibo (“Acknowledgement of Receipt”) of the daily Juventud Rebelde (“Rebel Youth”) for 9/25/11 there is an article titled El Potín, y mucho más (“The Potín and Much More”), where a citizen and the journalist show the deplorable state of this formerly elegant commercial establishment, with regards to the paltry services it provides and its anti-hygienic facilities.  The article by itself is sufficiently explicit and I will not repeat it, rather use it as the foundation to delve and expand on the problems of the so-called State Gastronomy.

If this Potín in El Vedado (at the intersection of Línea and Paseo) is in crisis, its sibling in Old Havana (O’Reilly Street) is a sad reminder of the past: the only remains are its name embossed on the granite floor and the deteriorated facade, the once elegant place turned into a primitive and dark warehouse.  Something similar has happened with the majority of the gastronomic establishments that existed in the decade of the fifties, that were the pride and points of reference of our city: either they have ceased to exist, most converted to ruins, or they are true slums.

The same fate overtook the so-called Beach Clubs, belonging in their time to different workers’ or employees’ federations (telephone, hardware, retailers, bank, pharmaceutical, etc.) that were handed over later to the unions, and today (and for many years) in death-throes and in a total state of abandonment.  Why were they nationalized? Maybe to let them be destroyed?

Such measures, demonstrating their absurdity with the passing of years, can only be explained in the minds of people ambitious for power, who desired to be absolute rulers of everything, without taking into account their shortcomings, nor thinking about the social consequences of their adventurous decisions. Nowadays, when there is so much talk of updating the Model, even if the lost is irretrievable, it would be good that the eternally failed State Gastronomy should be laid on the table, along with other problems, and that real steps be taken for handing them (with their dilapidated facilities and inadequate equipment) to entrepreneurs who, in the short time of running their businesses, have demonstrated initiative, responsibility, organizational capacity, efficiency and quality, things that state entities have never accomplished (and much less maintained).

If we must learn from mistakes, as the never tiring refrain of mass media goes, at least we can begin to move forward learning from this, giving it a solution, so we can end, once and for all, all the discredited and inoperative gastronomic slums, called cafeterias and restaurants, that constitute an offense to our cities and towns.

Translated by: lapizcero

October 1 2011