The Capri Hotel is undergoing repair. Finally. It was already practically falling down.
During those wonderful years of the ‘80s, when almost any Cuban could stay in a hotel, my parents and I spent a couple weeks of vacation there.
The hotel is located in the formerly aristocratic neighborhood of Vedado, very close to 23rd Street (“La Rampa”), the historical focal point of Havana nightlife.
Practically all the buildings in the area were built prior to 1959.
And like other hotels of that time, the Capri doesn’t have a 13th floor.
That was a detail that impressed me. It confirmed in my mind everything that the expert Soviet ideologists had said about the inherent lies of capitalism, a society that believed in such superstitions couldn’t be healthy.
I felt that this slice of Havana from the 1980s was like something still close to the capitalist era. Moscow, the other city I knew, was urbanized in the Soviet era. Vedado, on the other hand, had conserved the architecture, the neon-lit signs, the night clubs and even the superstitions in its elevators from its capitalist past, which seemed so similar to the images painted for us in fiction and propaganda about the USA
In fact, the night clubs in Vedado (as seen only from the outside, of course) shaped my imagination about that system. With their strange names — such as the “la Zorra y el Cuervo” (The Fox and the Crow) or “el Gato Tuerto” (The One-eyed Cat) — they resembled those focal points of vice about which there had been so much talk.
That whole intense visuality that I experienced as a child surprises me today since I now know from friends that the 1980s was the “most socialist” era in Cuban history (an interesting interpretation).
I also remember from that time how my parents told me about the imperial eagle that was atop the monument to the Maine, and how that figure was destroyed by the vanquishing revolutionaries. I eventually even saw fragments of the famous eagle in a display at the Pavilion Cuba exhibition center.
We frequently went for walks near that monument, where I always felt terribly sad over the tragic destiny of the US marines who died in the bombing of the Maine, one of the most spectacular events in the whole history of Cuba.
Nonetheless, a few days ago I was again standing in front of the Capri.
A couple of blocks from that once fashionable hotel, a crowd of teenagers wearing designer T-shirts and jeans as well as brand-name tennis shoes were in line waiting for the opening of a matinée disco.
I tried to mentally calculate the total price of the attire that each one was sporting. I couldn’t come up with a figure.
Meanwhile, the old clubs of “La Rampa” have an increasingly lamentable look.