Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“In life you take risks or you lose…

…and I took a risk.”

That’s how Omar Francisco Rico Granados summed up his decision to use his own money and sweat to fix up a building’s second-floor apartments in the hope that he would get permission to set up a gym and charge admission in the unused space downstairs.

His gamble paid off.

Rico, once of the Cuban national soccer team, now runs the Gimnasio Sol y Cuba in Old Havana, a few steps southwest of the Plaza Vieja.

The building, according to a plaque outside, was a Masonic lodge from 1809 to 1869.

The ground floor space was full of discarded junk, the upstairs had ten apartments. Rico, proud and talkative, says he invested 34,000 pesos to fix up the apartments, beginning in 2008 and finishing last March.

I didn’t go up to see the apartments, but from downstairs you see repaired floor joists and a new pvc sewer line that he installed. In his project file, there’s a letter signed by the ten families upstairs supporting his proposal to use the downstairs as a community gym.

The rest of his file shows the results of his bureaucratic odyssey. The local government liked his project at first, then turned against it. But he went also to the Havana historian’s office, which is in charge of all planning, land use, construction, and restoration in Old Havana. “They were my support,” Rico says, showing approvals from the historian’s master planning office, a variety of permits, and a document that gives him use of the first floor for two years with possible renewals, and marks his status as “PRIVATE.”

He opened the gym last September. He’s got a sound system, home-made weightlifting equipment, wooden crates for step aerobics classes, and three instructors whom he pays. Kids and retirees enter free; 100 pesos a month gets you unlimited use of the gym, 60 pesos a month gets you in for a daily 90-minute slot.

Rico pays about 250 pesos per month in tax, and uses the rest to pay expenses and recoup his investment.

He wants more exercise equipment, and the big item on his to-do list is the carpentry, ironwork, and glass to fix the front façade according to his plan (see photo).

Rico doesn’t own the property outright, and he realizes that as the restoration of Old Havana progresses, authorities may want to put the site to a different use.

That prospect doesn’t seem to bother him, and one imagines he would land on his feet even if that did come to pass.

[A story of another gym in Centro Habana is here.]


Fantomas said...

This is old news . the gym was up for a while. Cabe destacar que las dictaduras comunistas no permiten negocios privados o entidades que sean ajenas al partido

el dueño de e ste local debe ser un tremendo seguroso del gobierno

Right mr peters

Anonymous said...

So maybe Phil is finally willing to concede that it is not a crime to establish a private gym in Cuba? Now that's progress.

But getting back to a more serious matter, it turns out Phil used his "vacation" to shill for the Castro brothers' imprisonment of Alan P. Gross, a U.S. contractor and former Obama campaign worker whose "crime" was to provide computers and other "dangerous" spy equipment to Cuba's Jewish community.

For weeks now, the muchachos at Villa Marista have been working him over to "confess" to his crimes in a show trial. Maybe Phil and Lefty would like to serve in the jury?

Phil, it is one thing to be naive. It is quite another to sink to the level of Matty Dubuque (AKA Leftside) by becoming a bootlicker for dictators.

Fantomas said...

phil peters is indeed a castro bootlicker

Pero su factura esta pendiente para ser cobrada algun dia

y lo bueno de todo esto es que el lo sabe

Fantomas said...


Quien es mas repugnante

El gobierno d e España o Peters?

favor responder below in this comment section

Anonymous said...

it's the hard right exile sociopaths who'll be presented the invoice by the cubans living on the island. you're delusional if you expect them to ever forget who's responsible for the embargo/travel restrictions on US citizens.
you dinosaurs have bet all your bribes of congress on one card: violent upheaval, which -it's becoming clearer every day- is never going to happen.
one day bacardi footsoldiers like you will awake from your denial, e.g. when the first reports circulate about wealthy ex-hard liners secretely opening back door channels to the island in order not to be completely left out of the post-castro resconstruction bonanza.

Anonymous said...

Of course Phil is right. All peaceloving peoples should condemn sending "communications equipment" to dangerous subversives in the synagogues of Cuba. Everyone knows that the so-called "USB drives" flooding Cuba via the CIA (darn, I meant to say "USAID") are skillfully disguised 30 calibre bullets, of the kind used at Langley's firing range to train violent subversives like that Yoani creature.

Anonymous said...

Phil, how many years of hard labor should the U.S. contractor be sentenced to for his crimes against humanity?

Fantomas said...

Everyone knows that the so-called "USB drives" flooding Cuba via the CIA (darn, I meant to say "USAID") are skillfully disguised 30 calibre bullets, of the kind used at Langley's firing range to train violent subversives like that Yoani creature

USAaid is in the forefront helping thousands of innocents victims in Haiti

Long live the US Empire and the goodwill of Obama and the American people


leftside said...

Even if were to take a huge leap of faith and accept this leak from the State Department that this guy was only working with a few non-political Jewish groups, he and the people he worked with would still be guilty under Cuban Law. As Phil pointed out, cooperation with any aspect of the "Libertad Act" (Helms-Burton) was made illegal in Cuba after it passed. USAID 's Cuba Program is explicitly a creature of Section 109 - the explicit purpose of which is defined as supporting Cuba's internal opposition (at least as understood by Rep. Ros (the bureaucratic language says "support for democratic and human rights groups.") Perhaps someone can tell us how supposedly non-political religious group can be said to qualify as democracy or human rights groups??