And thus it was with many things that I’m not going to repeat: commerce, market-determined prices in certain sectors, for certain activities; a proliferation of self-employment.…
And these are the opinions we have had about these things over the years,
never imagining that we would have to learn to live with them for a period
of time that is very difficult to predict, and that depends on many factors.
Fidel Castro, 23 April 1997
During the approximately 30 years in which the exercise of entrepreneurship in a market-oriented setting was effectively prohibited, Cuba actually created a nation of entrepreneurs. Although the intention was to convert Cuba into a “school for socialism,” the reality is that Cuba has also been, in part, a school for market-oriented entrepreneurship. This, indeed, is one of the more surprising and significant paradoxes of the Cuban Revolution. The nature of Cuba’s planned economy itself has inadvertently promoted widespread entrepreneurial values, attitudes, behavior, and savoir-faire, as citizens of necessity have had to buy and sell, truck and barter, hustle and “network” to improvise solutions to their personal economic problems. While entrepreneurial talents have developed broadly among the population, their exercise, until 1993, was restricted to the important but low-level everyday tasks of sustenance and survival, often carried out in the shadow or underground economy or on the black market. But when the space available for entrepreneurial activity was increased with the liberalization of microenterprise beginning in September 1993, the expansion and diversification of microentrepreneurial activity was impressive.