The Cuba Journal discussed Cuba’s entrepreneurial sector and tech scene with Ted Henken, one of the authors of Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape.
The book is wide in scope – but also practical for people interested in Cuba’s fascinating social and economic transformation. After reviewing the evolution of Cuba’s policies since 1959, the authors contrast the approaches of Fidel and Raúl Castro and explore in depth the responses of Cuban entrepreneurs to the new environment. Their work, rich in ethnographic research and extensive interviews, provides a revealing analysis of Cuba’s fledgling private sector. Among many insightful observations about Cuba, one particular focus of the book was to see, “how far has Raul’s apple fallen from Fidel’s tree,” according to Henken.
“A multifaceted analysis of Cuban economic activity…. Ritter and Henken paint a lively picture of daily life in entrepreneurial Cuba.” — Julia Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations
Ted Henken first traveled to Cuba as a graduate student in the summer of 1997. Many more trips to Cuba followed during which Ted witnessed an amazing transformation. Starting in 2010, Raúl Castro began to publicly embrace the very thing that his elder brother, Fidel, had long vilified and stigmatized – small, private enterprise – as a key part of the solution to Cuba’s economic woes. Henken says we knew that the time was ripe to finish a book comparing these differing policy approaches and chronicling the intense struggles and inventive strategies of Cuba’s cuentapropistas, or self-employed entrepreneurs.
The book contains useful facts about the state of Cuba’s free market and the factors likely to impact Cuba’s future entrepreneurs. There is a good examination of Cuba’s educated, eager labor force, many of whom have studied computer science. For example, the book points out that Cuba’s universities graduate more the 4,000 IT engineers annually. IT graduates are finding work in startups or as contractors, and the US now allows contracting of private sector IT professionals.
Information about ordering the book at a discount is here.
Here is a factsheet containing a summary of some of the book’s key themes.
Archibald R.M. Ritter is distinguished research professor emeritus of economics and international affairs at Carleton University. Ted A. Henken is associate professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College, CUNY.