Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

January 17, 1999.

SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF HOW "CRISTAL" BEER BEAT OUT ALL OTHERS By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Maybe Cuba's "Cristal" beer has displaced Cuba's "Hatuey" (pre-Castro Bacardi's) because the Bacardis are no longer on the island. But Cristal's green cans also have displaced the well-known Dutch Heineken from Cuba's markets. Why? There's a mystery here.

If Tommy Hilfinger's "American" sports clothes are the most popular, the same may not be said of a U.S. beer or any other from the world market. Cubans have received the exploitation of their own "local" Cristal with an open mouth. It's brewed at the Buccaneer (Bucanero) distillery only 770 or so kilometers (462 miles) east in Holguin province.

Why the popularity? Because some amongst its possibly foreign managers did not skimp in launching an unprecedented marketing scheme which captured this whole country, even though it (the market, the beer and the brewery?) all appear to be communist through and through.

"La Cristal" settled in its throne only in December 1998. Its managers sponsored the XX International Festival of the New Latin-American Movie. Its unforgettable and everlasting (?) slogan, "transparent beer bolsters friendship" rolled on into 1999.

It's not the price. The price varies from a dollar in exclusive places to 75 cents in the "shoppings," the government's U$dollar stores. At the Pain de Paris bakery open 24 hours in La Vibora neighborhood, during December 31 and January 1, shoppers bought cases of it even though it was 85 cents a can.

Oddly, the dollar stores in the "10th of October" community were not as crowded as in other neighborhoods. A Vedado resident from La Rampa told Cuba Press that during the Christmas season more people gathered in the foreign exchange stores. Those in Central Havana and in Old Havana also had moderate sales. Some observers noted that something similar had happened when the use of the U$dollar was decriminalized in 1993.

It goes without saying that on the 40th anniversary of Castro's revolution the Cristal bear stood above other local beers such as Bucanero (Buccaneer) and Mayabe

Of course not everyone had the money to celebrate the passing of 1998 by drinking Cristal. Many, especially the undollared class of workers and low-paid employees had to make do with the amber colored poor-quality beer with no label to hide its nakedness.

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.


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