Javier opens the gate to the small repair kiosk on Calle Luz, at 10am. The simple workshop houses a counter, a repair area and an equipment store. As soon as the canopy is opened customers arrive and business is brisk. Locals bring fans (ventiladores), cookers (cocinas) for rice and food mixers (mezcladores). All are many years old and look like they have been repaired many times over.
The kiosk, run by Ivan Marzo Rodriguez with his small team of workers, provides a repair service for the local community in southern Habana Vieja. They repair domestic electrical appliances, including irons (planchas) fans, food mixers and other kitchen equipment. Work is often carried out on the spot , using spares from the store rooms. Sometimes there are no spares, so new components may be fashioned or adapted from a different make or model. The repairs are all recoded in a register and are usually given a 3 month guarantee.
Ivan was originally taught electrical engineering in Magnitogorsk, USSR in 1983 and spent 4 years in Soviet Union as Engineering Assistant. In the early 1990s he returned to Cuba and worked with his wife, Iraida Giminez, as a confectionery baker (pastelero). Then, in 2000, he began his repair business. The workshop is full of old cannibalised parts, from broken appliances, stored in drawers and metal chests for future use. Spares and replacement parts are very difficult to obtain as a result on the ongoing US embargo.
Ivan is one of 14 children, four of whom are in the repair business, so it is something of a family tradition. He is proud of his car, and like nearly all Cuban vehicles it is subject to ongoing repairs and refurbishments. Ivan has two workers who help him in his workshop, Javier Segur, whom he taught, and Ejidio. His older brother, Isidoro, also has an electrical repair business in Cerro, which he started in 2005. The street side work area he uses is shared with two others, who do basic mechanical repairs and a shoe repairs.
Ivan and Iraida have two daughters, Queren and Caren, and a son, also called Ivan. His son, Ivan, recently married to Marbelys, also has a thriving repair business on San Ignacio, about ten blocks from his father’s workshop. He also does domestic electrical repairs, and after being taught by his father since he was 12 years old, has now run his own business for 5 years. He now works with Ariel (his 16 years old apprentice) as the business has grown.
The family are representative of a community of repairers, essential for maintaining 'things' in Cuba.