Original Lion Statutes in Havana Park Disappear

By Irina Pino

False lion at the entrance to the park.

HAVANA TIMES — Mariana Grajales Park, in the capital’s Vedado neighborhood, doesn’t have it’s original lions anymore, now it has some ordinary ones, probably made out of concrete. Neighboring 23rd Avenue, they were always an object of curiosity and many generations used to take family photos there together, a lot of children, myself included, used to climb on top of them and play.

During the city’s reconstructive work in 2015, this park was restored, which included polishing its monument, tidying up the green areas which surround it, new pavements and concrete benches, as the old wooden benches were being stolen piece by piece over time, until most of them were completely ruined.

However, that didn’t stop nearby neighbors from noticing that the lions had been replaced, the ones which had been there for decades.

Empty pedestal where the centaur once rested.

Where these statues ended up remains a mystery up until today. Similarly, one of the figures behind them, a centaur holding a musical instrument had the same fate. A friend told me that one fine day, false lions were brought here, which were a different color than their pedestals (which were a matte color), and put in the new ones, which blind people with their intense white color and rough modeled lines. Lions like these can be found at the entrance to any home.

This is a very busy place. People normally come here to relax, to get some air and to take in its beauty; children run around, ride their bikes, couples fall in love. Opposite, there’s the Saul Delgado senior high school and its students normally take their breaks under the shade of the park’s trees, and you can frequently see them playing soccer and doing physical exercise.

In one of the park’s corners, there is a domino table like there ought to be, with its never-ending players, who spend hours enjoying this pastime.

Students in the park.

In this same place, for many years, cultural and political activities, popular fairs, concerts and poetry recitals have been held.

In the ‘90s, during the Special Period’s exodus, when the energy crisis increased with extended blackouts on a daily basis, a lack of food and resources, many people took the initiative to start building rafts and other navigation inventions right here, where everybody could see them, so they could leave Cuba to flee from their economic hardships.

The history of this park weighs heavy and I’m filled with great sadness when I look at the false new statues, which contrast with everything here.

Nobody has dared to complain. Who can we hold accountable? Who can we ask? However, in spite of everything, the park’s true lions will remain in the memories of those who visit the park looking for peace and tranquility. The only ones who won’t know about this fraud are today’s children and young people, although maybe a family member, a friend, will take it upon themselves to tell them about this strange occurrence.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.