entrepreneurs

Nadege Green / WLRN

 

Two lemonade stands are operating on a fairly busy street corner in Miami Gardens at Northwest 191st Street and 33rd Avenue.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Last month we thought Cuba’s communist hardliners had put the brakes on growing the island’s private sector. But you never know with Cuba.

Today Havana issued a hopeful reform that Cuba’s half a million fledgling entrepreneurs – or cuentapropistas – have long waited for. The island’s communist government announced that small private businesses may now become genuine legal entities.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Rubén Valladares just might be one of the most important entrepreneurs in Cuba.

No, he’s not a tourism tycoon. He’s not a tech titan.

Truth is, he makes…paper bags.

“But we are the biggest provider of bags in Cuba,” says Valladares, a slender, middle-aged man who finishes his sentences with the sort of raspy chuckle that helps people get through each trying day on this island.

The Sunshine Economy in Cuba

Mar 21, 2016
Tom Hudson

Elizabeth Duconge says she has quadrupled her income in the past two months. She had been an art curator in Havana. Now she works at a paladar in the Vedado district here. Paladares are privately owned restaurants and some of the most visible reforms of the Cuban economy. Duconge said she makes $30 Cuban pesos a week waitressing at La Moraleja. “I didn’t have a way to support myself and my family,” she said a few hours before President Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday. “I started to work here and it changed. Now I can help my family and support myself.

Tom Hudson / WLRN.org

President Obama is betting that business owners will be engines of change in communist Cuba. Especially millennials. Two of them will meet the President on Monday in Havana – and then head to Miami this summer for more intense biz training.

Oscar Matienzo is a 25-year-old Afro-Cuban with a sharp head for fashion and computer marketing. He’s put both those talents to work for Procle, the private clothing business his family owns in Havana.