The Cuban entrepreneurs

The Cuban entrepreneurs

A look at the cuentapropistas who are authorized to perform some 200 trades

Cubans are entrepreneurs.

They repair a Jeep with a Volkswagen Jetta engine. They open a small business making furniture with used wood. They rent rooms in their homes or set up restaurants for tourists. They plant mint and sell to restaurants for the perfect mojito. They use their own vehicles for hire to drive people through cities or to other towns.

They work eight, 10, 12 hours a day, for five, sometimes seven days a week.

Since 2010, the Cuban government has allowed more small businesses activities and eased some restrictions. More than 500,000 Cubans are now licensed, self-employed workers or, as they are known in Cuba, cuentapropistas.

Cuentapropistas are authorized to perform 201 trades, such as barbers, construction workers or music professors. The list doesn’t include many highly qualified professions, such as doctors.

Entrepreneurs in Cuba face high taxes, and they lack a reliable wholesale market, along with materials, equipment, investment and financing to keep or expand their businesses.

The Cuban government has the monopoly on imports, except those items visitors bring or those sent as packages. Many businesses work with equipment and supplies brought by friends and relatives from abroad or bought on the black market.

In Cuba, entrepreneurs do what it takes to make a living. And these are some of their stories.

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