Havana is a ghost town. The American convertibles swooned over by tourists are back in the garage, while most restaurants and cafes are closed.
Cuba’s private sector has been suffering since the island nation closed its borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the charming old building where the 1993 comedy Strawberry and Chocolate was filmed, a spiral staircase leads to the deserted La Guarida, the most famous privately-owned restaurant, or “paladar”, in Cuba.
“We decided to close the restaurant from March 15,” nine days before Cuba’s authorities imposed their first virus-linked restrictions, said owner Enrique Nunez.
By Saturday, the country of 11.2 million people had close to 1,000 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths.
“I have friends with restaurants in Spain, they told me what was happening, about the danger, the difficulty of continuing to serve customers in these conditions,” Nunez told AFP.
His restaurant usually serves 200 people for each sitting.
Omnipresent in tourist guides, it’s a must stop for many visitors, including stars such as Beyonce, Madonna, and Pedro Almodovar, whose photos adorn the walls.
“That was the main reason we took this decision. We’re a very attractive site, many people arrive in Havana with the desire to experience La Guarida.”
What that meant was that “we were on the front line” of potential coronavirus infections.