Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal, Dies at 77

Eusebio Leal took Barack Obama on a tour of Old Havana during his visit to Cuba in March, 2016. Photo: Nestor Marti

HAVANA TIMES (dpa) – Cuban historian Eusebio Leal, who restored the colonial beauty of portions of old Havana and helped to turn the city into a tourist attraction, died Friday at the age of 77, the ruling Communist Party’s Granma newspaper reported without giving details.

Leal oversaw the renewal of dilapidated Havana, organizing the restoration of emblematic buildings such as the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana, El Morro castle, the National Capitol and hundreds of houses.

His work as a Havana historian was not only driven by “the insatiable search for documents or objects, but rather the obsession for something much more substantial, which is culture as the supreme creation of man,” he said on receiving a German decoration in 2017.

In 1982, old Havana and its fortifications were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Born in Havana in 1942, Leal started working at the capital’s administration in 1959 and became the director of the City Museum a decade later.

His Catholic faith did not prevent him from joining the Communist Party’s Central Committee and from becoming a lawmaker at the National Assembly.

In recent years, Leal appeared less in public, but still showed Havana to royal visitors from Britain and Spain.

“Today we have lost the Cuban who saved Havana … and did it so passionately that his name is no longer just his, but synonymous with the city,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal, Dies at 77

  • Some people are so entrenched in their viewpoints that they presume to pass judgment on others. For example, these traits are evident in those wholly in favour of the Cuban Government and those who are wholly against it.
    In reality, people don’t usually fall into the category of Good or the category of Bad.
    Most people fall short of either of those two extremes.
    Some people will live very long lives without ever finding this understanding. Unfortunately some people go through their lives remaining entirely entrenched in their views.
    But then again, perhaps this stubbornness or entrenchment to be partly admired or respected in some way? Perhaps some would even regard it as an attribute?

  • We mourn the loss of Eusebio Leal Spengler, one of the founding board members of the Havana Heritage Foundation. Eusebio has been a consistent voice for the preservation and restoration of Old Havana with a human touch and deep caring for the people in the City. His unmatched knowledge, cultural sophistication, dedication to the city and friendship will be missed by all of us.

    JIm Friedlander,
    Havana Heritage Foundation

  • As Leal was a frequent guest on Mesa Redondo always extolling the merits of communism, it is but proper to record the achievements of the system that he promoted, as compared with those of the past which he so admired.

    His actions spoke louder than his words! It was pre-revolution culture that he sought to preserve!

    But, make no mistake. he used the personal prominence that he achieved, to promote the repression of the Castro regime and could be counted upon to be one of the 603 members of the Poder Popular to rubber stamp the Castro dictates!

  • R.I.P.
    Highly respected man who did a huge amount to preserve much of the more historic parts of Old Havana.
    I notice that Mr MacD misses no opportunity to get in an extra little bit of propaganda.

  • Wonderful job of preserving pre-revolution architecture, art, planning and culture.

    The alternative of Communist style development under the Castro regime, can be seen at Alamar, although for some strange reason, the Cubatur and Gaviota tourist coaches carefully avoid visiting the showpiece!

    “culture as the supreme creation of man” is carefully avoided by the Castro regime, unless one takes seriously that the bodegas, people hawking a few household goods in the streets and groups at the panderias hoping to purchase bread, ought to be considered as culture.

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