Havana’s “La Vibora” Neighborhood

Photo feature by Ernesto Gonzalez Diaz

vibora2HAVANA TIMES — According to popular tradition, Havana’s neighborhood of La Vibora (The Serpent) owes its name to an incident dating back to the 18th century.

On their way to Havana from the rural municipality of Bejucal, travelers would make a stop near a pharmacy with a sign bearing a caducean, the well-known symbol of the medical profession, which shows two entwined serpents.

In reference to this pharmacy, travelers began to refer to this place as “the serpent stop” (“la parada de la vibora”).

Today, the neighborhood belongs to Havana’s municipality of 10 de Octubre and is bounded by Acosta, Santa Catalina, Calzada de 10 de Octubre and Vento streets.

Approximately 3 square kilometers in size, it encompasses several senior secondary schools, a hospital, 2 polyclinics, a commercial area known as Monaco, a municipal cultural center, the seat of the city’s municipal government and a municipal court, an art gallery, a movie theatre and other political, social and cultural institutions.

Though showing clear signs of neglect, the neighborhood’s parks are one of the highlights of this community. Another noteworthy feature is its irregular and sloping topography, which has necessitated the construction of sets of steps adjacent to some of its major streets.

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4 thoughts on “Havana’s “La Vibora” Neighborhood

  • I was born and lived in Heredia, between Santa Catalina and San Mariano, until the age of eleven, at which time )1970) I emigrated to (where else), Miami, Florida where I lived continuously for 45 years. In 2015 I moved to Canada after having married a Canadian national. Many images here look so familiar. I look forward to returning someday.

  • Lived on Ofarrill almost at Juan Delgado. It was a good fun place to live for kids. The parks were great and there were still some empty lots to play around in. But of course there was the revolution going on with many small bombs going off at night but basically safe. I was only about 10 years old and already developed a strong dislike for Batista which I would later transfer to Castro.
    One night in 57 or 58 there was a gun fight between members of the underground and Batista’s National Police and SIM, Military Intelligence Service. Not quite sure what happened for we were inside the house and my parents didn’t let us go outside. I have pieced together what I could by talking to neighbors and reading an account in Bohemia magazine during the brief period that there was relative freedom of the press in very early 1859.
    The shooting started when the Police attempted to enter an apartment on the corner of Goicuria and Ofarrill and were repulsed by the occupants, The shooting lasted all night diminishing as the night wore on apparently because some o the occupants attempted to escape and were killed or wounded as they fled. Rumors are that one of them was wonded but was able to make it to Cllinica Pasteur on Avenida Diez de Octubre but was take from the emergency room and shot to death outside the clinic by the police. One of the wounded was coughing and asking for help in front of our house but my dad would not allow my mom to let him in,
    At daylight the shooting stopped and according to neighbors a petite pregnant woman was the last occupant to come out and she surrendered to the police. Neighbors gathered around and yelled don’t kill her and took pictures. She was jailed and gave birth while incarcerated, her name was Norma.
    I left Cuba in 62 and returned twice in 2018 visiting our neighborhood once finding the place very neglected.

  • Lived at 411 Ofarril st. attended Instituto Edison left in1962. Visited Cuba twice in 2018 visited house once. Neighborhood as most of Cuba is very neglected trash piled on streets, streets in need of repairs , trees need trimming. It ws nice to be in Havana for it’s 500th birthday.
    Brought back many memories both good and bad like playing in the many beautiful well kept parks with park officers for safety. Also remember seeing two dead bodies kille by police under police guard just outside the MiniMax grocery store by the Monaco movie theater where I saw many American and other films. Old Havana is n relatively good shape because is a UNESCO sponsored area.
    Sad to see how dirty the streets were compared to the clean the city used to be with trash collected 5 days a week .

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