As mentioned earlier, over the last years, the Cuban government has initiated
plans for economic reform aimed at reducing the size of the government payroll by
stimulating small business development. It is now estimated that there are over
400 000 independent small business owners in Cuba. This is still a very small
number compared to the island's total population of over 11 million inhabitants, but
it is a clear sign that the government is serious about the initiative and that there is
a desire from Cubans to establish themselves as independent business owners
rather than relying on the state for all their economic needs.
In Cuba's larger cities, small businesses are everywhere. Walking down a street
crowded with independent vendors operating out of doorway storefronts and small
curbside stalls, you would be forgiven for thinking that communism was nothing
more than a footnote in the country's history topics. Capitalism is clearly making
headway here and the list of permissible independent business types seems to be
expanding on a monthly basis. The following list describes some of the most com-
mon independent businesses permitted in Cuba.
Restaurant and Fast Food: Even before it was legal, the independent restaurant in-
dustry was always a popular way for Cubans to make a bit of extra money. In the
past, Cubans would operate clandestine restaurants out of their houses.
Nowadays, they are permitted to open and operate restaurants and fast food
stands and this has become one of the most profitable independent forms of em-
ployment. These restaurants are officially referred to as paladares . They range
from the tiniest street side stand, selling fresh baked donuts, to the largest, fanci-
est, full scale, sit down locations, located in expensive tourist hot spots.
Household Items Vendor: These vendors can sell almost any household item,
provided that it is made in Cuba. These items include pottery, cooking utensils,
pipe fittings, gaskets and rubber washers as well as a host of blender and coffee-
Music Disc Sellers: These vendors sell a variety of bootlegged CD's with crudely
printed cover art. Prices are cheap, with most albums selling for the equivalent of
$1USD or less. If you are walking down the street and hear loud reggaeton or
salsa music, it's a good sign that one of these vendors is somewhere near.
Artisanal Clothing Sellers: In Cuba, the word artisanal is used to describe hand-
made items, manufactured within Cuba. This can range from clothing sewn by an
independent seamstress, to shoes manufactured in a larger scale Cuban shoe
factory. In previous years, clothing sellers exploited a loophole in the law and star-
ted selling imported clothing and shoes. This soon grew to be a large market and
negatively impacted the domestic manufacturing industry. In 2014, most selling of