Whoever takes Vedado’s Avenida de los Presidentes from Havana’s Malecón and keeps heading south for about forty minutes if there’s not much traffic, will come to my town, Santiago de las Vegas. 
If you continue heading south on Boyeros Avenue, you will see just to your left and before starting the climb of Cacahual hill, a restaurant almost in ruins whose name is La Tabernita.
If you continue uphill, after passing the military unit (which by the way has lost its traditional stone walls that were part of the undeclared landscape heritage) the traveler will distinguish a thick foliage and within it, a kind of ruins that in its time was another restaurant, El Rincón Criollo, famous not only among the original inhabitants of the town, but also in the province of Havana,  since it became a sort of paradigm of the country restaurants of the 1950s and first decade of the 1960s.
El Rincón Criollo was also part of the popular and gastronomic culture of my town. 
Founded by Rudesindo Acosta, whom the residents of the town called Sindito, the place became very popular. Sindito’s roast pork and black beans were like a seal of quality.
Legend has it that long before the restaurant was founded, Sindito was one of those waiters who, by the roadside, took advantage of December 7 to sell “pork sandwiches” to all those who on that date participated in the pilgrimage to the Antonio Maceo Mausoleum, one of those traditions which the children of the town schools joined with our teachers in a kind of solemn party that we enjoyed as the tremendous challenge of reaching the mausoleum and which I now miss not seeing.
1. Photo: Santiago de las Vegas Online blog.
2. Photo: Santiago de las Vegas Online blog.
3. Photo: Santiago de las Vegas Online blog.
4. Photo: Santiago de las Vegas Online blog.
A part of everything that was sold there, vegetables and fruits, was produced in the surroundings, in a kind of chain that nobody planned, but that was successful for a long time. Its employees, for the most part, lived in the town
But El Rincón Criollo and La Tabernita were not only gastronomic facilities, but also places to meet and enjoy with the family. There was even a children’s park in El Rincón Criollo that survived even until the early 1990s. My wife and I took our children there on our bikes to have a picnic with what had survived in our Special Period refrigerator.
Still in the 1970s many young people went there to eat―no longer roast pork because at that time the “national mammal” was very scarce, but there were other dishes―and drink the odd beer.
Many of my town’s young girls celebrated their “quince” party there at that time when the choreographies and waltzes were in good taste, although always being careful not to play José Feliciano, because someone at some point decided to ban him.
Both ruins, before emblematic restaurants of the local gastronomic culture and today monuments to abandonment, are still there.
It has taken years for the two to reach that state. I remember that a few years ago Rio Cristal was also like that and it was rescued through the efforts of several institutions.
I confess I haven’t asked anyone about the plans for what’s left of the restaurants. I haven’t gone to the Delegate of my constituency, nor have I asked him in any assembly of neighbors, nor have I gone to ask for any explanation from the authorities of the Boyeros municipality or the Municipal Department of Gastronomy and even less some authority of the Ministry of Domestic Trade. Mea culpa.
1. What remains of El Rincón Criollo. Photo: Juan Triana.
2. What remains of El Rincón Criollo. Photo: Juan Triana.
3. What remains of El Rincón Criollo. Photo: Juan Triana.
I have written these notes pained by such deterioration and the stupor at seeing how two possible opportunities to generate services, employment and income for people and for the local government are wasted.
I don’t know if in the case of El Rincón Criollo, where I saw clotheslines set in the sun in its former dining rooms that today have no roof or anything, is still part of the local heritage and the property of the entire town or if it became something else. I hope that at least some needy family is using the place, for me it would be better news.
The contrast comes when you return to Havana and on Rancho Boyeros Avenue you take 100th Street, then take 31st Avenue and after crossing 41st Street, you turn left and take 70th Street. Then, going straight, you arrive at 1st Street in Miramar and there on the right, rising from the reefs several cafes and restaurants appear in a rocky area. Only a few months ago none of that existed, except for some concrete walks and some benches that facilitated access to the sea for those who risked their legs between hedgehogs and rocks.
Someone told me that all that movement was due to a local development project. Now that rocky esplanade is alive round the clock, provides services and offers products all day and night, generates employment for the city and the locality, and fiscal resources that swell the famous 1% with which the local government can promote other initiatives.
1. 3rd and 70th streets in Miramar. Photo: Juan Triana.
2. 3rd and 70th streets in Miramar. Photo: Juan Triana.
It’s an alliance between the public sector (the local government), which has the land resource, and the private sector, which has other resources in addition to its entrepreneurial skills.
There are regulations formally established by the local government, “rules of the game,” that the regulator oversees, but above all there is a tremendous opportunity to value a land that produced nothing, to increase the services provided to the population without compromising a centavo of the local budget―which may be left to improve schools and polyclinics or houses of culture. It’s a new opportunity to improve and grow by adding the best that the State can contribute in this case and the best that the non-state sector can generate.
Nor will the State have to invest a centavo of the people’s money in necessary systematic repairs. Even less will the municipal government or the corresponding department have to appoint several administrators and pay them and their respective secretaries, or allocate a centavo to the fuel so that the comrades “move,” or money to repair those vehicles, or the ubiquitous essential warehouse manager and his “buddy” the “warehouseman” and even less spend money on an army of guards who barely guard.
The Department of Gastronomy of the province or the municipality doesn’t have to worry about supplies, or transport, or the rational use of water and electricity. These are responsibilities that go against the cost of these businesses and reduce their profits, so that they, the entrepreneurs, will be in charge of minimizing them and maybe even some will venture to install a system of solar panels and heaters to reduce that expense even more.
These new ventures generate new chains that also start appearing without central planning, as it is said in this jargon of chains about the final customer to the provider of goods and services, but where “the public” could greatly influence by promoting and facilitating it through adequate incentives that give value to other idle lands of the municipality or those agricultural enterprises of the neighborhoods or urban agriculture and other jobs that provide the necessary services to complement those others.
The project, with all these restaurants, will add value to the area, especially the town’s new hotel being built just 10 meters across the street.
Suddenly the company that will manage that hotel will be able to internalize that new environment, while those entrepreneurs who have risked their capital and put the effort and time into the project, will increase their income when the hotel is inaugurated and curious tourists leave the hotel. These entrepreneurs will pay more taxes and may even have to increase the hired staff, all of which will contribute to the economy of the inhabitants of the municipality. And for the record, it has been done when the U.S. blockade is at its worse, when the financial grip is tougher, when Mr. Trump and Mr. Marcos Rubio are trying new ways to asphyxiate Cuba; it has been done when there is less with which to do.
Could the local government have done it? Probably, but following what is stated in the governing documents of Cuba’s economic policy, that piece of reef is not decisive for the development, vitality and sustainability of the country and does not compromise national security. So what’s the point of it being “state-run”?
Is the project perfect? Not at all, I am convinced that it is very perfectible in many things, from the publication of the tender, the ways of participating in it, the construction deadlines, the duration of the lease, the operating regulations, and so on.
This is, without a doubt, an exercise of “learning by doing,” among other reasons because culture and knowledge about public-private alliances in Cuba is still insufficient. Because many times, when they exist, we don’t recognize them as such, and because other times there is the inertia and the fear of taking risks.
But, nevertheless, thinking as a territory, which is also thinking as a country, has been done. And I aspire that projects like this prosper, without waiting for the perfect laws that take too long in a drawer. Perhaps one of those projects, of those that don’t wait for those laws, makes it possible to recover those two small pieces of the local heritage of my town.
 The town was recognized as such in 1725 under the name of Santiago de Compostela de Las Vegas, after almost fifty years of settlements of tobacco-producing farmers, and recognized as a city by Fernando VII in 1824.
 Actually, there were four restaurants that existed since the beginning of the climb, these were, La Tabernita, El Rincón Criollo, Las Brisas and El Palmar.
 The roast pork from El Rincón Criollo, next to the roast chicken from Wajay’s Rancho Luna, with that special sauce that Sergito’s mother again reproduced again later, many years later, in the famous and almost only El Aljibe Restaurant, run by the family for decades, well-known and famous for its dishes throughout Havana.