HAVANA TIMES – Let’s take a moment and imagine what would have happened to Cojimar if its history had been different. This fishing village located in Habana del Este.
That is to say, if locals had let themselves be conquered by British forces led by the Earl of Albemarle in the 18th century…
It would be different; everyone would be speaking English and its architecture would provide greater possibilities for its residents. Instead of this, there is now a hodgepodge of buildings; people have taken it upon themselves to build their own homes, even when they don’t know anything about architecture and urban planning.
You can’t forget what else Cojimar used to be famous for: a spa town in the 19th century which Havana’s elite would visit, with luxury hotels such as the former Hotel Campoamor. During the Special Period, this same building became the Leonor Perez Special Needs School for children with learning difficulties, then it became a Court, and lastly, the headquarters of the Federation of Cuban Women.
A friend told me that the hotel’s beautiful flooring was destroyed by ridiculous dividing walls which were put in, destroying the tiles. Almost in ruins today, a line of garbage cans line up in front of it.
Ernest Hemingway, the writer, used to fish in Cojimar. It was here that the main character in “The Old Man and the Sea” lived.
An important event has been held in Cojimar ever since the ‘50s: the International Spearfishing Tournament, where the Ernest Hemingway Prize is awarded. It is no longer held here, it has moved to Hemingway Bay, in the Playa Municipality.
Street parties are held in the summer which people from Guanabacoa and other nearby neighborhoods attend. They have a good time with reggaeton and cheap rum.
The Torreon de Cojimar, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was used as a base by Border Control forces for many years. Interior parts of the monument were sacrificed, and an improvised kitchen was built, as well as bathrooms in its higher towers.
In 2013, after Eusebio Leal, Havana’s City Historian, came to visit, restoration work began, but it wasn’t completed.
Now, only tour groups come to visit. Foreigners go up to its viewpoint and take photos. My friends and I went up the day we filmed this video. The guard on call thought that we were tourists because of the way we were loaded with hats, glasses and backpacks. But he wasn’t bothered at all when we told him that we were Cuban and that we wanted to take our own photos. It’s clear the tip we gave him in CUC helped.
And, what can we say about Cojimar beach that appears at the beginning of the video? Nobody bathes there because the water is heavily polluted. Children have devised their own special place for playing, with a pile of used tyres.
The video will have a second part: you will soon see the Fabrica de Caramelo, Club La Costa, La Marina, the fishing cooperative, movie theater and Loma de Fidel.
(Click on an image to display the gallery.)