Havana’s Marina Hemingway, a Little History

Daisy Valera

Entrance to the Marina Hemingway.

HAVANA TIMES — Very little about Cuba’s nautical tradition has been divulged in recent decades, despite the fact that it dates back to colonial times.

Cuba’s first sailboat race was held in 1887, as an initiative of the Havana Yacht Club. In the 30s, a shipyard that built a wide variety of vessels was prospering on the shores of Havana’s Almendares river. By the end of the 1940s, the Cuban press was publishing its “Seafaring Stories”, and Cuba was home to hundreds of yachts and recreational fishing vessels at the time.

The Marina Barlovento Complex was one of the facilities created during the flourishing of these activities. Following the triumph of the revolution in 1959, it was nationalized and re-baptized as the “Hemingway Marina.”

The Barlovento Marina began to be built in 1953 as part of Havana’s urban development plan at the time. Upon completion, it boasted 4,500-meter canals lined with houses with docks for the owners’ yachts.

Boats in the canal.

Over the past fifty years, the original wooden houses have been replaced with bungalows, two hotels (the “Acuario” and the “Old Man and the Sea”) have been built and the Barlovento residential dwellings have been fused into “Villa Paraiso.”

Even though this marina is recognized as Cuba’s leading nautical facility and hosts internationally renowned contests (such as the garfish, Blue Marlin and other fishing tournaments), it looks dilapidated, lacking in comforts and dominated by a 90s infrastructure that has seen next to no refurbishing.

Within the complex, the 15, modernist houses that make up Villa Paraiso, designed in the 50s by Nicolas Arroyos (one of the most renowned of modernist architects in Cuba at the time), show the greatest degree of neglect.

As of the middle of last year, the Decree Law “On Tourist Marinas” was signed as part of the implementation of the Party’s economic “update” guidelines. The law envisages the creation of a Nautical Commission and regulations for establishing marinas at coastal areas.

The island seems to be turning towards the sea again and the Hemingway Marina could well be rescued by foreign capital in the short term.

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