Cuba's first English-language bookstore, cafe, and literary salon opened in Havana yesterday. The brainchild of a longtime US expat, Cuba Libro launched with just 300 books on offer, about what you'd expect to find in the lobby of an average US bed & breakfast. Next to what's available elsewhere in English in Cuba, however, it might as well be the Library of Congress. "I know how hard it is to get English-language sources here," says New York City native Conner Gorry, 43, a journalist living in Cuba since 2002. "So I started cooking this idea."
The concept was hatched two years ago when a friend called Gorry to say she had a sack of about 35 books she didn't know what do with. More donations have come in since. Washington's economic embargo bars US citizens from conducting financial transactions with the Cuban government, and Gorry says she was careful to avoid anything that would run afoul of laws back home. Cuba Libro operates on food-service and used-book-sales licenses, and it's set up as a kind of unofficial cooperative, or group-owned private enterprise, with five Cubans.