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Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

Zulu Wallets for and from Cuba

November 28, 2012 | Print Print |

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Producto Zulu

HAVANA TIMES — I don’t know if from a stroke of good luck, but Cuban families are being forced to somehow recover from the economic disaster. Hilda Zulueta’s family is one of these.

She told me that when things were tight back in the not so distant Special Period economic crisis she was a teacher at a vocational high school, and had to come up with an additional means for her family to survive.

It was precisely in 1992 when she began making “Zulu” brand leather bags. Sure, over the years she has refined her skills considerably, it’s to the point that now her craftwork is on par with those products sold in any boutique.

“Zulu” is the first four letters of the last name of her family, made up mainly women (Hilda Zulueta, Mady and Orasnis Letamendi Zulueta), but also Paul Machin, who’s also proud of his handicrafts.

Each of their bags is unique. The dyes and leather take on a singular personality in every single object.

Nonetheless, when on March 4 the Tribuna newspaper published an article promoting the Zulu brand, even they couldn’t believe it.

They — solely with the quality and beauty of their work — had managed to find an opening in the stagnant Cuban press. Though they’ve never managed to have that feat repeated, at least those producing the Zulu brand can say they appeared there.

Looking at Zulu products, I realize that in this town, which some people try to characterize as being made up of deadbeats and loafers, isn’t at all like that. There are many creative people who only need the real opportunity, concrete facilities and, of course, the resources.

I realize that when people manage to overcome disappointment and frustration, they can come up with great ideas.

This is a Cuban family operation that I hope grows in our country and for our country.


What's your opinion?

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    Excellent! Workable socialism must unleash the creative power of the entrepreneur. That entrepreneur might be individual, family or cooperative, but the special person (or persons) with an idea and the guts to put it into practice is needed under socialist state power to make the economy work and make the people prosperous. Zulu bags are a small example of this entrepreneurship, but it’s a good example.

    • Moses

      What happens to the socialist model if say, Angelina Jolie, visits Cuba, sees and buys this handbag and when she returns to the US is seen walking around New York with it on her arm. Fashion magazines turn this little handbag into the “must-have” for the people who have it all. Why shouldn’t this Cuban entrepreneur be able to then sell her trademark for a million dollars, open up a small factory in Cuba and start to produce 1000 of these handbags a day. This sort of thing happens in the real world. What is wrong with Cuba is that to do this in Cuba would violate a stupid law called “illegal enrichment”. As long as she stays small and poor, no problem. But if her hard work and sound craftsmanship were to make her rich, she’s a bad person. Why do socialists hate rich people? Especially rich socialists.

      • Griffin

        No problemo, Moses! If Angelina Jolie buys the bag and the demand takes off, the Ministry of the Interior can always swoop down on the little shop and bust them all for corruption and “illegal enrichment”. Then Raul can assign the enterprise to one of his big Cuban conglomerates, like say, GAESA (run by Raul’s son-in-law) and ramp up production. Of course, the quality will go down, and the design will be marred with an patch bearing some ugly Argentine’s face… but at lest the money will flow to the right pockets!

        This is the New Socialism, Cuban style.

        • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

          There is a great deal of truth in what you and your co-thinker say, Griffin. When the bankers and big capitalists injected the state monopoly ownership principle into the socialist movement in the mid-1800s through Engels and Marx, they misdesigned socialist state power to function in much the same way as a corporate elite.

          Their objective was to replace working class, cooperative thinkers like Proudhon with bourgeois fakes like Engels and Marx, split the proletariat from the small bourgeoisie, and eliminate the threat of the working achieving direct ownership of the instruments of production.

          When this bourgeois perversion of socialism achieved flesh and blood in the 1900s, all the flaws of the flawed design came eventually to light. But the Cuban system is not the product of original socialism, but of the anti-socialist, counter-transformational formula put forward by the agents of the bankers and big bourgeoisie.

          There is a good deal of truth in what you say. Neither you nor the Marxist cultists however can see the real truth of what is and what needs to be done. And so, you can only rant about the obvious stupidities of the covert bourgeois design.

          • Griffin

            //// We are so fortunate to have you to enlighten us with your theoretical rectification.

  • leash

    Where can a Zulu bag be purchased in Havana?