The Cuban ‘Foodies’: How to recommend restaurants in the midst of shortag

The Cuban 'Foodies': How to recommend restaurants in the midst of shortag

HAVANA, May 7  The Cuban YouTuber, Elisa Arquez, uploaded a video to her YouTube channel where she shows the prices in a restaurant in Pinar del Río, a municipality 160km from Havana.“One of the most expensive things are spaghetti and hamburgers, we can’t ask for that,” says Arquez.

She then decides on some croquettes and a pizza with chorizo and cheese, for a total of 730 Cuban pesos (approximately 28 euros). “It’s not like in other countries that I see in novels where people go out for breakfast or lunch every day, here this can only be done one day a month or when there is a special price.”

While in some private establishments, just the main dish can cost more than 35 euros, the minimum wage in Cuba is barely close to 82 euros (2,100 Cuban pesos).

In Cuba, food shortages are a palpable reality and prices in private restaurants have skyrocketed, but there are also Foodies or gastronomic influencers.

As in other countries, Cuban Foodies are dedicated to reviewing restaurants on social networks. Mainly on Instagram and YouTube, since TikTok is banned on the island.

The phenomenon is recent. Mobile internet arrived in Cuba in 2018 and only in 2021 were private companies allowed again, which made it possible to open new restaurants.

The Cuban 'Foodies': How to recommend restaurants in the midst of shortag

AME3259. LA HABANA (CUBA), 05/05/2024.- La influenciadora cubana Flavia Blanco habla en una entrevista con EFE, el 22 de abril de 2024, en el bar Melodrama en La Habana (CUBA). Cuando le mostraron hace apenas un año videos de influencers españoles hablando sobre comidas y restaurantes, Eduardo, un habanero de 31 años, tuvo una iluminación. Si ellos podían, él también.EFE/ Yander Zamora

Flavia Blanco (@super_fla_cuba) shared with her more than 85 thousand followers this week a review of La Concordia, a restaurant in Central Havana. In her post, she details some menu prices: a cocktail for 820 pesos, a pizza for 2,100, and a cheesecake for dessert for 870.

“Those places are not for the Cuban who lives on a state salary,” Blanco clarifies in one of the comments on the publication. The total menu is 146 euros, almost two Cuban minimum wages.

Blanco, in addition to being a gastronomic influencer, is a dentist, manicurist and community manager. “Salaries do not correspond to the prices of places, neither state nor private, throughout life the Cuban salary has not been enough for almost anything,” she explained Blanco in an interview with EFE.

Eduardo, a 31-year-old Havana native, uploaded his first video to YouTube in February of last year. That same month he posted Three restaurants that you cannot miss in Havana and the review The Best Buffet in Cuba.

In a matter of hours, he went from being unknown to one of the leading food influencers on the island. Today @Habana_edu has more than 31,000 followers on social networks.

“Unfortunately, I believe that 90 or 95% of the restaurants in Havana are middle class or upwards,” says Eduardo, who paid for his reviews in Cuba with the money he generated with two different jobs.

“When I get into bed the first thing I think is that I’m going to feed my son,” said Diana, a single Cuban mother, during an interview last month with France 24. In February of this year, the government of Havana asked the UN World Food Program for help to supply milk to children.

It is the first time that Cuba has requested this type outside of a natural catastrophe event. Many Cubans wait hours in line to purchase products subsidized with the ration card.

The Cuban 'Foodies': How to recommend restaurants in the midst of shortag

ACOMPAÑA CRÓNICA***AME5781. LA HABANA (CUBA), 21/09/2020.- Varias personas hacen fila para comprar alimentos en una pequeña bodega, el 17 de septiembre de 2020 en La Habana (Cuba). El decomiso de negocios ilícitos de alimentos y la intervención televisiva de un ministro que mencionó la producción de croquetas y tripas entre las medidas para enfrentar la escasez que atraviesa Cuba han levantado polémica entre la población, que cada vez pasa más dificultades para llevar comida a la mesa. EFE/ Ernesto Mastrascusa

Although the Cuban Executive attributes the shortage to sanctions and the US embargo, critics blame the communist Administration for mismanagement of the crisis. The difficult economic situation and shortages affect a large part of the 11 million Cubans.

Although the work done by gastronomic influencers in Cuba is not without controversy, they are not the only ones who recommend restaurants on the island.

In recent years, digital projects such as Menu Cuba have emerged, with more than 20,000 subscribers on Telegram. Restaurant menus are shared there to explore the dining options available.

The disparity in restaurant prices concerning the country’s economic situation causes many users to leave negative comments on the videos of Cuban foodies. “How do you feel when you promote places that 85% of the population cannot go?” a follower told Flavia Blanco.

“I feel good,” the influencer responded. “I do not set the situation in the country, the inflation of the dollar and the prices of restaurants, greetings and blessings.”