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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4 thoughts on “Restoration Projects in Old Havana

  • You are absolutely right, Mr. Mosses Patterson. Cuba is not in
    the hands of the Cuban people at any rate it is in the hands of a group of people a thousand times worst than a mafia, it is a total stupidity and absurd communist propaganda to say that Cuba was controlled by the US or the Mafia, US companies had great commercial interests there, it is true, I has been so for more than 200 years but most were Cuban American ventures which benefitted both, Americans and Cubans. In spite of Batista which was heavily supported by all workers unions and peasants in Cuba, in fact an individual comparable to today’s socialist leaders in Europe incredibly the country flourished at an astonishing rate especially during the 1950’s, it internally produced and exported the 85% of the food and consumer goods that now requires to purchase abroad, imports were mostly luxury items and technology, not a necessity.

  • Beggar nations like Cuba have a hard time with your request. Raul Castro just announced that he will have to purchase 85% of the food that Cubans will consume in 2015 from abroad. When you are that dependent on others, it is hard to keep from taking it in the shorts. If it isn’t the US, it will be Russia, China, Brazil or Spain or more likely, some combination of these countries. The Castros have put Cuba in the position of having to choose their poison.

  • Dear people of Havana and Cuba,
    Cuba is YOUR country and it should NOT manipulated by people outwith your beautiful island. In the short term big bucks may look attractive, but in the long term they will be a rope around your neck. Cuba is for the Cuban people ONLY.

  • During my first trip to Cuba–June through August 1959–some of the venues now being rehabilitated were in good shape. Too bad that after 70 or 80 years we, too, can’t similarly be rehabbed before we “fall down!” On YouTube there are several travel films of Havana in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s which depict many of these venues during their heyday. My hope is that with the end of the blockade more money will be flowing in to rehab not only buildings in Habana Vieja, but also in Centro and other barrios that have building worth saving.

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