Cuba inaugurates its first luxury shopping center

Elderly Cubans seem surprised to see goods that cost more than what they will earn in their entire life
Photo: AP
Havana, Cuba
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In the heart of the capital of a nation founded on social equality ideals, the commercial arm of the Cuban military has transformed an old commercial gallery into a conspicuous capitalist temple.

With the arrival of the first shops from L'Occitane, Mont Blanc, and Lacoste, la Manzana de Gómez has turned into a sociocultural phenomenon since it opened a few weeks ago and Cubans walk around the bright corridors thrilled.

La Manzana has five stories and is close to El Prado, the boulevard lined with trees which divide the heart of the colonial sector of the city. On the upper stories, a five stars hotel will open officially on June, the propriety of the military tourist agency, Gaviota, and managed by the luxury Swiss chain Kempinski. Next to the galleries of the first floor of la Manzana, the premises that manage the Military's retail shops, TRD Caribe and CIMEX, alternate luxury brands with less known Cuban businesses which offer, nevertheless, expensive articles affordable to a small but growing middle-upper Cuban class, such as 6 dollars shampoo bottles and 100 dollars dinner sets.

A couple of blocks away, Cuban workers live in neglected apartments, in streets full of garbage. The official salaries have been devastated by the ongoing economic stagnation and the inflation, money is barely sufficient to buy food. House repairs and other commodities will have to wait.

With the economic recession and the uncertainty about the oil assistance that Cuba receives from Venezuela, the government seems to debate between the necessity of reforms oriented to a market economy and the fear that social inequality will generate dissatisfaction and claims for political change.

“These are shops for millionaires. To attract tourism with money, that is development, capitalism,” expressed 55-year-old Maritza García, an administrative employee at an office. “Everything that is development is good. Little at a time the country is rising. We are a socialist country, but the economy has to be capitalist.”


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