“For me, having fun is about enjoying myself anywhere except at home”, says a young Cuban. Simply put, going out is what he’d like to do in his free time, but young Cubans who want to have fun have to overcome a number of obstacles first.
By Ailyn Martín Pastrana, independent Cuban journalist
In a 2011 survey, Cuban youngsters identified the main difficulties preventing them from having fun as: transport problems (51.5%), high prices (47.5%) and the lack of options and venues (41.4%).
But since last year, the situation in the country’s main cities has changed. New privately-owned businesses such as bars, cafeterias and restaurants have been springing up, offering new possibilities. But are they a real option for young Cubans?
“There are more opportunities to enjoy yourself in Havana than in other provinces”, says María Rodríguez. “There are venues that accept the national currency. Everyone is welcome, but people can’t afford to go every day or even every weekend. There are new bars, which many young people frequent, but not everyone can afford them.”
According to the National Statistics Office, the average monthly salary in Cuba is 448 pesos, approximately 15 euros.
Cuba’s dual currency system affects people in almost every sphere of their daily lives. One example is the quality of services provided depending on whether the establishment accepts the national peso (CUP) or the convertible peso (CUC). “There’s a major difference in the range, quality and appeal of the services”, says Rodríguez, “depending on whether you pay in the national peso or CUC”.
“I go to a couple of discos at night, when I can afford it”, says Ricardo Pereda. “If they offer quality, I’m willing to pay, even though at times I have to tighten my belt.” For his part, student Mateo Vestes says, “if I don’t have money, I go to the beach, a park or I play football. Nowadays there are many expensive places. Good luck to those who can afford them. I can’t.”
The burgeoning entertainment scene on the island is a source of concern for parents who are still supporting their children. “I have to keep an eye on them”, says Odalis Chirino, referring to her two sons. “We only have one income, and we can’t afford to let them go to expensive venues. We parents have to shoulder the costs.”
Another problem for many young people in Havana is the location of the popular public spaces. “Almost all of them are in the municipalities of Plaza and Playa”, says Julio Alberto Pérez, as he sips a drink with a girlfriend in the Madrigal Bar Café. It’s one of the new trendy venues in the capital, which Julio confesses, he only visits “when I can afford it”.
Theatres, cinemas and live concerts are also possibilities for young people, who are constantly looking for new ways to have fun. Laila Chaván, an industrial design student, dreams of “going bowling, taking part in extreme sports or playing volleyball on the beach at night. There are a lot of healthy ways to have fun, besides sitting down and chatting with friends, though that’s often the only thing we can do. I mean, there are other things we should be able to do without having a drink.