The revolution happened as recently as the last five years or so. So many parts of the country, including particularly Habana Vieja were basically completely neglected and un-loved.
Then, the government granted some entrepreneurial licenses in just a few categories. One of these was the trade of hairdressers and barbers – they were now able to open privately run shops in their own homes. The discussion at the time was that this was a means to perhaps foster some new ways to use buildings and create both a livelihood for Cubans and additional commercial activity. Today, that initiative has shown to deliver some real dividends.
One of the most interesting participants in the new program was Papito – a barber with a special flair who opened Artecorte Salon, a shop and a museum of hairdressing at the end of what was then a lonely street. We introduced you to his shop in a story called Papito – come for a haircut, stay for a bright new Havana! That turned out to be a fabulous prediction of what was to come.
Today, Aguiar is vibrating with super-cool new cafes, small bars and galleries. Walking the area last week, I spotted La Farmacia in an old pharmacy building on the corner of Pena Pobre welcoming you into the pedestrian area. It’s a sweet café and outdoor patio with comfortable prices and chilled beverages. Café Artes; El Figaro (with the witty slogan “food without hair”) shows off its candy coloured barstools; Bella Hany Pizza serves tasty treats; Pedros Confeccines Textiles offers hip clothing and several other small enterprises that share the vibe make the block a stroll of authentic discovery. And just around the corner toward the access to the Tunnel, is the gracious El Lucero, a stunning café landmark restored in 2012.
Papito remains involved in the street, and probably beams with pride seeing how his initiative has evolved into a charming and interesting corner of a great city.