Havana’s Capri Hotel under Repair

Dmitri Prieto

The Capri Hotel

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.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.



5 thoughts on “Havana’s Capri Hotel under Repair

  • Dmitri, I think this statement is incorrect.

    “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.”

    Take a good look at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_traditions_and_superstitions

    about russian superstitions too!

    We cubans do have also lots of superstitions too maybe too many! But every one does!

    http://www.mybigfatcubanfamily.com/my_big_fat_cuban_family/2008/12/cuban-new-years-eve-traditions.html

    Or have you stop listening to the fear to “Mal the ojo”(Evil eye) in Cuba now?

    Superstitions have no relation to social systems as your soviet ideologs expert claimed.
    They are inherently human and part of the human condition. It’s the search for patterns in clouds and patterns on the unknown that allow us to progress and build and put forward hypothesis. Superstition in someway can be thought of as the science of the people.

    Reply
  • It´s not incorrect, it´s just irony, Julio. I´m writing about “expert Soviet ideologists”, about the effects of their propaganda on a child´s mind, and about how those effects somehow got “confirmed” by the living experience of that child in Cuba. Or you suppose the ideologists had a good point to provide in re superstitions? I am not sure about that. All the atheistic propaganda effort was a big bluff. That´s why scientology is so popular in Russia, along with similar home-grown NRMs, like Radasteya.

    Reply
  • My apologies Dmitri. Reading the article I did not get it as an irony but as something you believe in.

    Reply
  • Speaking of the eagle, above the overhead sliding door of my detached garage is a similar bas relief figure. A few years back, when I had my house repainted from a boring grey with crimson trim to a more luminescent grey with neon purple trim, the painter, respectful of this symbolic image, neglected to repaint the eagle in such a garish color. I was thinking of replacing the eagle with a wrought-iron image of Che, like the on the side of the MININT; at this point, however, I plan to repaint the eagle a neon purple (and perhaps later, add a purple Che)!

    Reply

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