Another Diatribe on my Havana Beach Club

August 19, 2013 | Print Print |

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

Swimming with my son in the sea.

HAVANA TIMES — It seems to have become something of a habit: every year, at around this time in the summer, I head over to Havana’s Otto Parellada club, where my son, Rogelio Jr., and I enjoy a good swim at the coast. Then, ingrate that I am, I write some harsh criticisms about the place.

This year’s complaints, I hope, include one or two interesting anecdotes and suggestions to be kept in mind. I hope they are the last I write (let’s keep our fingers crossed).

As most know, this club or “recreational circle” is the one “assigned” to public health employees. You can also become a member through a simple bureaucratic procedure which involves the issuing of a photo membership ID (which is what I did).

Theoretically speaking, the members of the club are also its owners – as much as, theoretically speaking, the people of Cuba are the owners of their companies, mines, hotels and a long list of other things.

One should probably make nothing of the fact that, on arriving at the club in these summer months – the only ones in which we, the “owners”, are entitled to freely access our recreational facility – we need to make an orderly line and cross a cordon of zealous security guards armed with nightsticks. They are there, reportedly, to protect the place…from its owners?

The other day, already inside the club, we bought some pastries from a street vendor who managed to sneak into the place. What I mean to say, she managed to take a bag of pastries into the establishment without the guards noticing. I would like to tell the guards that I personally have no problem with letting a handful of honest, self-employed vendors access my property so that we will have a broader food offer in the place. But something tells me they won’t be too receptive.

Generally speaking, us “owners” have access to a very limited range of offers in our own club, unless we get certain special invitations. With these, for instance, you can access the pool and restaurant. This past Sunday, I ran into a doctor from my hospital who had managed to get some of the invitations handed out that week.

This left me thinking. If we own the place, who could possibly hand out such invitations? Some kind of mega-owner? It couldn’t be the secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Association (CTC) at the hospital – he’s a mere yes-man. Could it be the secretary of the main union in the health sector? Could it be Ulises Guilarte himself, former cadre of the Cuban Communist Party, chosen at finger point to become the new CTC “leader”?

This brings me, finally, to my proposal – a proposal in keeping with the times we live in, in which the State begins to relinquish control over service providers and to authorize the creation of workers’ cooperatives to run these.

My proposal is to allow the workers of the Otto Parellada Club to create a cooperative and to authorize them to manage the place as they see fit. I think this would do away with a lot of the problems I have described in previous posts.

I would gladly give up whatever part of this establishment is duly mine, as “owner”, if that would contribute to the creation of such a cooperative.

It’s clear to me, however, that my disposition doesn’t change much. Relinquishing my rights as owner to such a workers’ collective is one of the rights, as owner, I do not have. I suppose that can only de decided – with or without my agreement – by the tsar of Cuba’s economic reforms, Marino Murillo, or by President Raul Castro himself.

Perhaps they are the true mega-owners.


What's your opinion?

  • guest

    In my country, those clubs are called “country clubs” and they are very expensive and selective. You have to have good connections to get yourself in and you have to pay a little fortune to keep up to date your membership. In return, yes, you enjoy high end full services, food cooked by top chefs, grounds well maintained, every concern is properly addressed, but there is a price you have to pay for it. In my understanding, in Cuba there is not a completely “private property/management”, everything still needs to be managed by the appointed institutes.
    The question I have is: there are certain beaches that are assigned for tourists and other beaches for local people only? For example, any resort workers, in their days off can enjoy the beach and jump into the ocean, right on the spot where they are working or they have limited access?
    I have this question in mind, as you stated that the Cubans are owners in their own country and they are supposed to use/enjoy every common good.
    thank you