Photo Feature by Elio Delgado Valdes
Text by Elvira Pardo Cruz
HAVANA TIMES — Some time ago, we published a photo feature titled “Old Havana under Repair”, in reference to the underground infrastructure that is being repaired in Havana’s old town. This is one of the many projects aimed at improving the quality of life of those who live in this old part of the city, but it is by no means the most ambitious. There are other projects that seek to rescue the nation’s architectural heritage, as many of the structures in Old Havana were designated by UNESCO in 1982, when it recognized the old town as Heritage of Humanity.
The reconstruction and restoration of monumental buildings such as the Capitolio, the Gomez Commercial Center, the Spanish Cultural Center, the former Presidential Palace (or house of government) and the complete refurbishing of the port-side avenue, are some of the projects currently underway.
The repaired two-way port-side avenue, the remodeled Customs House, the Practicos del Puerto building, the former headquarters of Havana’s firefighters (which will be transformed into a terminal for speedboats cruising the Havana bay), the Paula grove (a public area where people can stroll, rest and watch the ocean), and other structures now undergoing restoration promise to create a new environment: the old city is reborn amid ruined buildings that will one day be included in restoration plans.
The restoration of the port-side avenue is being carried out by work brigades from the Puerto Carena construction company which operates under the Havana Historian’s Office.
Other restored spaces have already been opened to the public: the former wood and tobacco storage facility has been transformed into a small brewery, while the San Jose warehouse has been converted into a crafts and arts market. The repair of the Sifon de la Bahia gives this frequented place a modern look.
Busy, day-to-day places meet with the city’s rescued heritage, now transformed into museums, restaurants, cafeterias, bars and specialty stores, such as the Chocolate Museum, the El Escorial café (offering more than one hundred varieties of coffee) and the Plaza Vieja beerhouse.
Private residences that have been turned into spaces for the sale of crafts, snacks, restaurants or rentals for tourists make the 214 hectares that comprise Old Havana a veritable development zone.
The massive effort reveals to us an urban environment where much remains to be done. The old town welcomes people from around the city and abroad, eager to see architectural relics and to get to know Cuba, its people and history up close, every day.
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