Thanks to one man’s moxie, Cuba now has El Cabildo, a recently opened entertainment center that’s pushing the limits of the communist country’s still unfolding economic reforms.
The force behind El Cabildo is Ulises Aquino, a 50-year-old opera singer who founded Opera in the Street in 2006. Aquino was looking for a home for the company, so when President Castro announced a series of reforms to promote private businesses, he decided to seize the opportunity.
As reported by Reuters, Castro’s reforms have encouraged private initiatives but they come with restrictions intended to ensure Cuba doesn’t return to a society of haves and have nots. Aquino mixes individual initiative with community activism, hosting free children’s activities on weekend mornings and keeping his prices affordable.
Aquino has 60 performers and 26 support staff in Opera of the Street, plus 43 employees in a bar and 150-seat restaurant. They all earn 1,800-2,000 pesos a month, about four times Cuba’s average monthly salary of 450 pesos ($19). El Cabildo, believed to be Cuba’s largest private business, is a throwback to life before Cuba’s 1959 revolution, when Havana teemed with cabarets and theaters.
In the Reuters story, which you can read here, an official with the National Association of Cuban Economists says several similar private entertainment projects are in the works, pointing to the importance individual initiative will play in building Cuba’s future.
“There are many artists that want to do projects like this,” he said. “El Cabildo is just the beginning.”