Cuban Private Grocery Stores Thrive, But Few Can Afford Them

HAVANA — Until recently, the space was the one-car garage of a private home in Cuba’s capital, Havana. Today, it is a well-stocked, if small, grocery store whose big board at the gate entices shoppers with such offerings as cooking oil, tomato sauce, Hershey’s cocoa powder, Nutella, shampoo, cookies, and jam — a treasure trove in a country that is short of supplies.

The nameless shop in the residential neighborhood of El Vedado is one of dozens of tiny grocery stores that have sprung up around Cuba in recent months. Locals refer to them as “mipymes” — pronounced MEE-PEE-MEHS. The name derives from the Spanish words for the small- and medium-size enterprises that were first allowed to open in 2021.

By allowing the new businesses, the Cuban government hoped to help an economy in crisis and strengthen local production. The almost 9,000 enterprises approved so far include the likes of sewing workshops, fisheries and construction firms, but it is small retail shops like the one in Vedado that seem to be setting up the fastest.


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 Edited by Jesus Chan

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