Galiano Street in Havana

Photo Feature by Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Today’s residents of Havana know little about the life of our streets in the past. They walk them, sometimes without precise destinations, just for the pleasure of wandering along them. One of the busiest in Centro Havana is Galiano, a necessary thoroughfare for many workers and ordinary people.

Very few know that the avenue was closed at San Miguel Street until 1842 and, 45 years later, “La Opera” was located on that same corner.

On another corner of Galiano and Zanja, which leads to Chinatown today, there was a tavern, and before that a famous public bathhouse.

The young bicyclists who now flirt with death by hanging onto buses at the corner of Galiano and San Lazaro can’t imagine that there used to be a quarry there. The stones were taken from it for the construction of the street itself.

Along Galiano you can see the varieties of races, levels of buying power and generations that color the city.

Beggars can be seen sleeping in doorways and — close by — you’ll see someone coming out of the Epoca department store having bought comfortable furniture for their home, poor children smiling at the camera, people rummaging through garbage cans, and tourists discovering Cuban life from the Deauville or Lincoln hotels.

The bici-taxi drivers parked in front of the church perhaps don’t know that the land was once owned by a marquise, or that to the south of the church there used to be a beautiful garden.

Looking up we’re struck by the circular balconies, while walking we find buildings of all types of visual varieties and qualities of construction – from tenements to solid old buildings with their columns decorated with reliefs and mosaics.

The street also has parks that break the monotony of the walls and rooftops, like Fe del Valle Park, where once stood the El Encanto department store – firebombed by opponents of the revolution.

And there’s another park on the corner of Reina Street, where people can rest, play or just stop to think about the intensity of their existence.

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