Cuba is changing.
Thanks to Mike of The Nellie Blog for passing along a link to this excellent article and short film about the changes to Cuba's economy from Al Jazeera, of all places.
Couple of observations:
Everybody - and I mean everybody, including kids - always had some kind of a sideline going. I don't think I've ever met a Cuban who wasn't giving informal tours, running an illegal taxi service, selling something out of their house, etc. All the reforms are doing is bringing the black market economy above-ground (and creating some new businesses, like cafeterias, which couldn't operate on the black market because they were too visible). I always found it ironic that Cubans are by far the most entrepreneurial people I'd ever met.
Secondly, the film nails what is going to possibly kill this reform unless they fix it - the ponderous Cuban bureaucracy. That hasn't been updated to support the needs of the new entrepreneurs. The bureaucracy is the bane of every Cubans' existence, and the few brushes I've had with it show it to be maddening. A phrase you hear frequently along with a shrug is, "Es Cuba". Fatalistic. If they don't break that culture the reforms are doomed to fail.
I was amused at the lady's repaired bathroom. That's one of the nicest private bathrooms I've ever seen in Cuba. Note no toilet seat. Outside of the resorts, they don't seem to exist. I hope she gets her habitation paperwork sorted. The tv show featuring letters of complaint amazed me. I couldn't have imagined the regime tolerating that when we first started going there. But everyone agrees that Raul has to do something extreme.
These reforms - at least, the beginnings of them - had already been announced the last time we were there. Cubans we spoke to were remarkably upbeat about them. (A couple of them noted that they had already been offering services illegally - now they could do it above-board.) However, a lot of civil servants are being let go. They all have to figure out some kind of business or trade.
The times, they are a-changing.