Cuba Libro, at the corner of Calle 24 & 19 in Vedado is as its name implies, a bookshop. But, not really at all. I mean yeah, it’s a bookshop – they sell books. But, it’s much more.
The super chill spot is a mission driven community where you can grab a cafecito, shoot the shit with others or simply lay in a sun-drenched hammock and stare at your finger tips in blissful wonder.
Just four blocks from Fabrica del Arte, late night revelers can stop by to grab a bite to eat and catch up on local
news chisme before their night out. Topics du jour typically revolve around the community, the environment and the world at large. And of course, let’s not forget the Libro part – it is an (English-language) bookshop after all. There are many options: hangout, read or do nothing – this author’s favorite past-time.
Founded in 2013 by journalist and Brooklyn native turned twenty-year Havana resident, Conner Gorry, the coffeehouse has garnered quite the reputation. It’s impossible not to hear about it from those in the know. The café’s super loyal following spreads across the island and the far reaches of the globe.
When the pandemic hit in March, 2020 Gorry and her staff closed up shop. They briefly re-opened for two months in September, 2020 when it looked like COVID was under control. Then, they closed again as COVID spiked. Through it all though, thanks to creativity and donations from their rabid fanbase, they’ve never stopped paying their staff or the family from whom they rent their location. The latter depends on this money to live.
Conner (affectionately referred to as “Chief” by the staff at Cuba Libro) speaks with pride about the cafe’s continued community work. They’re very active in the LGBTQ space, teach Cubans English, help people on the island get needed supplies (like prenatal vitamins) and they plant trees in Havana to help battle climate change. During the most recent COVID-19 spike, the team has been delivering books to people at home. And, they deliver cafecito to medical staff at hospitals.
That may sound trivial but in a culture where café is as important (or more so) than water, it’s a big gesture. Plus, medical teams are working around the clock in tough conditions to treat COVID patients. The caffeine is welcome.
It was admittingly hard for me, a s
elf-proclaimed wanna-be hipster, to admit to Gorry that I had never been to Cuba Libro. I explained it’s because I mistakingly thought of it only as a bookstore. My attention span – that of a gnat – lends itself more to video. Being around too many books makes my left eye twitch. I don’t have any disdain for my book loving friends – quite the opposite. I admire you and want to be you.
Understanding now that Cuba Libro is so, so much more than just an amazing bookstore, I’m stoked to visit. It’s officially bookmarked for my next trip to Havana.
In the meantime though, I also want to contribute to the work that Conner and her team do supporting the community. Call me a romantic (seriously, call me one please – nobody ever does) but this feels like a way for me to spread some positive vibes around Havana. It also helps support Conner Gorry’s staff at Cuba Libro re-open during the country’s economic crisis while helping her and the team get back on their feet in a post COVID-19 Havana.
Related Post: El Café: Add This Havana Coffee Shop to Your List
I encourage you to visit Conner and her team in Havana or contribute to their Friends of Cuba Libro 501c(3) in the United States. As for me, I’ll see you in a Hammock in their garden. I’ll be the guy watching YouTube in the corner, sucking down cafecitos while wearing sunglasses so that you can’t see my eyes twitching in envy.
See you there.