UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cuba in transition : entrepreneurs, tourism and political compromise in Havana Taylor, Ariel Judith Stapleton


Since the early 1990’s Havana, Cuba has undergone considerable socioeconomic transformation resulting from the legalization of some forms of private enterprise. Paladares, Cuban owned and operated restaurants, have emerged in Havana as a significant industry, fueled largely by both tourism and Havana’s second economy. The liberalization of Cuba’s domestic economy has, in turn, impacted social and political ideologies, particularly among Havana’s wealthiest paladar owners. Concerns and speculation about the future role of Communism in the country have made the role of paladares increasingly problematic for both researchers and political officials in the region. However, this research demonstrates that more modest paladar owners attempt to mediate principles of socialism and capitalism by largely acquiescing to stringent government regulations. Alternatively, their wealthy counterparts engage openly in illicit business practices, often with near impunity from Cuban officials now indentured to the financial dividends traded for toleration. This research spans four neighbourhoods across Havana and draws on interview data gathered from nine paladar owners and ten weeks of participant observation. This thesis argues that paladares are not antithetical with ongoing social security and political stability for Cuban people and that tourism along with the second economy it helps to enhance are themselves detrimental to many of the gains championed by Cuba’s revolution.

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