Mystery Owners of the New Hotel in Crumbling Centro Havana?

The Tribe Caribe Cayo Hueso Hotel opened on Saturday in Havana. (14ymedio)

The protagonists are an American-Venezuelan musician, a mysterious Anglo-Saxon investor and the shadow of Mariela Castro.

By Juan Diego Rodríguez / Olea Gallardo (14ymedio) 

HAVANA TIMES – The neighbors of the hotel Cayo Hueso, in Centro Habana, watched with intrigue, for months, the remodeling of the building located at Aramburu 253, at the corner of Neptune. Little by little, the property — built in the 1930s and in decline, like all its surroundings — was becoming a luxurious establishment, judging by what could be glimpsed through the windows of the ground floor.

Nothing, however, reported its future use, and the only sign it displayed was the work license number written on a piece of cardboard and poorly hung on a window. The gossip  began to flow without confirmation: a yuma had bought the property and was turning it into a hotel.

And not only that, but he had bought other houses and planned to relocate everyone who lived there.

If it was true that the project was for an American, in any case he had to be influential. In this regard, several residents of the place tell another anecdote. One day a cement truck was parked in front of the building, and a police patrol car arrived to ask the construction workers for identification. One of them phoned someone, and, after having a brief conversation, passed the device to the policeman: “Someone wants to talk to you.” “The policeman changed his expression, apologized, and they never bothered the workers again,” says a neighbor who asks for anonymity.

Thus, a name began to be repeated during the last few weeks by the neighbors. They dared to say that behind the project, headed by two American businessmen, was none other than Raúl Castro’s daughter. “There the meter is running, but it’s not for the Americans. That’s not theirs, but Mariela’s,” the residents said confidently, insisting they saw her on Friday inside the building.

True or not, no one saw Mariela Castro last Saturday, when the hotel was inaugurated and several unknown people were cleared. To begin with, its name: Tribe Caribbean Cayo Hueso (Key West).

The only sign that the establishment had was the construction license number written on a piece of cardboard and poorly hung in a window. (14ymedio)

On its webpage, where you can now book a room for 150 to 550 dollars a night — booking a full floor costs 1,000 — the “founders” appear: an American investor, Chris Cornell, and music producer Andrés Levín, born in Venezuela but with a US passport. In Cuba, Levin is known for participating in several cultural projects such as the Havana Biennale, in addition to his marriage to Cuban-American singer Cucú Diamantes.

Hence, he was the most recognizable figure on Saturday, at an unusual “neighborhood” inauguration party, which lasted six hours and included an exhibition by photographer Juan Carlos Alom, the sale of items by private businesses such as the Clandestina brand and musical performances. “Here in Cuba this is not allowed for just anyone,” commented a young man, who stopped humming what they were singing on the stage: El Necio [The Fool], by Silvio Rodríguez, to the rhythm of salsa.

Levín, with a cap and characteristic dark glasses, came and went, smiling, greeting with familiarity the neighbors gathered in front of the street stage, for whose installation the traffic on Aramburu Street between Neptune and San Miguel was closed off.

Nearby was a bus with the electronic sign “PROTOCOL” in capital letters, and the various Lada vehicles with drivers normally used by public officials, parked nearby, were obvious.

A group of young people dressed in T-shirts saying “Tribe Caribe” prevented people from entering the hotel and monitored the movements of the curious.

Tribe Caribe is a company registered on April 30, 2021, in Florida, with the address 1521 Alton Road 460, in Miami Beach. Levín and Cornell both appear as directors. The company, linked to the world of music, affirms that it “promotes and distributes exceptional original Caribbean content,” according to its website, and is “a proactive force, a voice and an educator in the continuous emergence of the rich cultural offerings of the Caribbean.”

On the hotel’s page, Chris Cornell points out that he is “a long-time professional entrepreneur and investor in arts, creative businesses and impact projects, who provides momentum and entrepreneurial spirit to the project,” and who “has directed all the important decisions of restoration, construction and design of the hotel, and is deeply aware of how these decisions affect the neighborhood, the local cultural identity and the preservation of the artistic heritage of Cayo Hueso.”

Andrés Levín came and went smiling, familiarly greeting the neighbors gathered in front of the street stage. (14ymedio)

Of that mysterious investor, with unknown biography and background, there are no traces other than his alleged signature in the office in North Palm Beach, Florida, where the Tribe Caribe company was created. Of course, his name and surname coincide exactly with those of the famous singer of the Audioslave band, the first American rock group to play live in Cuba, in May 2005, at a venue none other than in the Anti-imperialist Bandstand, and for hundreds of thousands of fans on the Havana Malecón.

Levín emphasizes that he has been nominated for 26 Grammy awards — he won one in 2009 for the recording of the musical In the Heights — and that he has “propelled initiatives and produced numerous cultural events in Cuba, including TEDxHabana.”

Founder of the Afro-Cuban band Yerba Buena, the producer has collaborated, as mentioned on the official website, with artists such as Miguel Bosé, Aterciopelados, Orishas, David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, D’Angelo, Julieta Venegas and Tina Turner.

In addition, he is the producer of several film projects such as Amor crónico, directed in 2012 by the Cuban Jorge Perugorría, with whom he has a personal friendship, according to the photographs that show them together and messages.

An actor who prefers not to give his name and who was in business with Levin years ago, tells 14ymedio that both had agreed to collaborate on several projects, but that the producer cut off all communication after the artist’s participation in the demonstration on November 27, 2020 in front of the Ministry of Culture.

At that time, the actor attended two parties organized by Levín. One, in a house that he had rented in the municipality of Playa, near 5th Avenue, and another, in Siboney, where the mansions expropriated by the main architects of the Revolution are located, to celebrate the birthday of the producer’s father.

The source did not see, on any of these occasions, “anyone who was a heavyweight in politics,” but just “plain show business.”

Nearby was a bus with the electronic legend in capital letters “protocol,” and the various Lada vehicles with drivers were obvious. (14ymedio)

But if he is associated with Mariela Castro, it is because Levín himself appears on social networks next to her, for example, in an “anti-homophobia” gala held in 2016. The Spanish singer Marta Sánchez, who performed on that occasion, also posted on Facebook about it: “Thank you Cuba for so much love and recognition! Thanks to Mariela Castro for that support to those who choose in this country to love as they want! Thanks to Andrés Levín for counting on me!”

In addition, the producer himself mentions Raúl Castro’s daughter in an interview granted in 2016 to Tablet, a magazine on issues of the Jewish community (the producers’s roots, whose parents, “very left-wing” according to their own description, were Argentines exiled in Caracas).

“It seems to me that I was at a dinner with you a few years ago and there were secret service people there and one of the Castros was with us or something like that. What happened?”, asks the interviewer, to which Levín replies that he does not remember well, but that it would surely have to do with the TEDxHabana event, in which he collaborated with “designers, programmers, artists and scientists” of the Cuban LGTBQ community.

The “neighborhood” opening party, last Saturday, lasted six hours and included an exhibition by photographer Juan Carlos Alom, sale of items by private parties such as the Clandestina brand, and musical performances. (14ymedio)

“One of the most advanced LGBTQ sex education programs in Latin America is led by Mariela Castro,” says the musician, who recognises having collaborated with her “on many projects related to culture and education.”

And then Levín unravels into praise for the Cuban people, whom he affirms “have a lot of potential and desire to prosper and are very different from what people think,” and who have “things that most of the world doesn’t have”: “Healthcare and education. Eleven million educated people. It is the most educated country in the world,” he says.

Tribe Caribe Cayo Hueso is offered precisely as a cultural project: “We continue a 25-year mission to preserve and pay tribute to Afro-Cuban culture and its musical legacy, we celebrate multi-generational artistic expression, and we come to share our exclusive access to a side of Cuba that visitors and guests could not experience on their own.” Not a word about the business purposes, nor the obvious opulence that the project exudes, nestled in the depleted heart of Centro Habana.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

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2 thoughts on “Mystery Owners of the New Hotel in Crumbling Centro Havana?

  • The betrayal of whatever was left of the Cuban Revolution continues in full swing. The neo-stalinist and racist Gallego leadership secretly engages in capitalist restauration of the crony type that took place in the Soviet Union in the 90s during its demise. The corrupt leadership rules with incredible arrogance and abandonment. The Cuban state fails to provide the most basic of services. Garbage piles up all over Havana, especially in Centro Habana. The ‘just-us’ leadership headed by President-select Diaz-Canel, is oblivious to the garbage piling up. One assumes the Sanitation Department employees continue to be paid whether they pick up the garbage or not. The Gallego wise men who were all selected choose to build Hotels instead of Social Housing. They consult nobody. They decide in their exclusive Gallego wisdom the MLC financial policy. And with the blood money they extract from the suffering Cuban people, they proceed suspiciously to ignore Cuban farmers and rather give the foreign exchange gained to farmers in the very country that is financially trying to strangle Cuba in every possible way. Something is very suspicious here in the manner of Pedro Alvarez who used to head ALIMPORT and fled to Florida to become a real estate agent.
    Before it is too late, progressive Cubans must struggle to take back their country and what remains of the progressive aspects of the revolution. The country is in the process of being sold. As in the former Soviet Union, there will emerge an oligarchy that is already well-placed. Watch the names: Marrero, Alejandro Gil, Mariela Castro! Sooner of later a deal behind the scenes will be made with receptive sectors in the United States for the sale of state assets, just as was done in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But this will generally not benefit the Cuban people. And Afro-Cubans will be the greatest losers as they do not have the same family backup in Florida to provide capital for the establishment of private businesses.
    The racist arrogance of the neo-Stalinist leadership is unbelievable. They simply ignore the suffering of the Cuban people. They erect a statue to their Gallego god, Leal, whose real legacy is the crumbling edifices of Havana. At a time of deep social crises brought about by the pandemic, the intensified US economic aggression and their own mismanagement and corruption, they simply disregard the people. They did not ask for help from friendly countries until after the demonstrations of July 11, 2021. Likewise they ignore the filth that piles up all over Havana breeding mosquitoes and possibly other illnesses. The President now embark on trips abroad as if all was normal with the first lady. There is no modesty, no humility. With 6 vice presidents already in place, Diaz-Canel and Raul Castro found it necessary to create the position of Prime Minister! Salvador Mesa simply becomes an old African mask decorating the office. It is a shame he doesn’t resign and take care of his grandchildren instead.

  • The dictatorship stole all the residential and commercial properties to turn them into ruins. Now they return the splendor to this magnificent example of Cuban architecture before the 1959 disaster, but not for the Cubans for tourists. For Cubans there is only misery, and repressors willing to make them disappear if they dare to claim their rights as citizens and humans. Almost all the materials for this construction were imported because we already know that in Cuba, when it comes to construction materials, only cement is manufactured. I mean, even the nails imported the question for everyone who crows every second BLOCKADE. Is: Where was the blockade that did not prevent the whims of Princess Mariela Castro?

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