Victor Bikini

A Film by Alex Mallis

With an inspiring visit to Miami, Victor “Bikini” Rodriguez, a former state-employed engineer, works to grow his fledgling bathing suit business in Havana, Cuba.

When Raul Castro took control of Cuba in the mid-2000s, the island experienced waves of economic change. Cuba, one of the few remaining communist dictatorships in the world, would be expanding free-enterprise: essentially legalizing a once grey market of restaurateurs, designers, entertainers, and some 200 categories of small business.

Now, the U.S. is moving to end the historic 60-year trade embargo, and the world is watching in anticipation of what many predict will be a flood of American capitalism. Victor Bikini explores Cuba’s evolving relationship with its nascent free-market economy as a new generation of entrepreneurs begin to prosper. 

Victor “Bikini” Rodriguez sees an opportunity. He worked for many years as a math professor and engineer for the Cuban state. Since retiring, he has started a local bathing suit brand. He designs the swimwear and employs seamstresses to hand-weave the products for sale in a local Havana market.

Victor extols the opportunities he has been afforded in the last few years and dreams of launching his product internationally. With his modest successes thus far, he’s been able to afford basic luxuries formerly out of reach. He can travel. He has a Facebook page. But what will happen to those unable to succeed in private endeavors? Victor shrugs and says he believes that the closed Cuban society of yore is long overdue for change.

Mike Ambs

I love to film things, tell stories, and read on the subway. I'm pretty sure blue whales are my power animal.