Photo feature by Juan Suarez
HAVANA TIMES — Our culture is heavily influenced by the United States. Even though we haven’t had close relations for many years, American culture continues to throb in our society.
A bit of history may help illustrate why this is the case. During the 18th and 19th centuries, and particularly as of 1818 (when a free trade agreement aimed at developing sugar refineries, cane plantations and warehouses was signed), US culture began to take root in our country.
The first public works undertaken in the capital during the first period were civilian and sanitary projects which included hospitals and schools. During this time, the Malecon ocean drive, which covered the distance from Punta to Lealtad street, was completed, the first hospital was built on the spot now occupied by the Calixto Garcia hospital, the Central Railroad was established, a network of electric street-cars servicing Havana was developed, the sewage system was perfected and the city’s streets asphalted.
Many stores and commercial establishments were built as the city began to develop economically. The store El Encanto, built in 1878, the ten-cent thrift stores belonging to the F.W. Woolworth company, and the Ultra, La Epoca, Sears, Fin de Siglo and Flogar department stores all appeared during this time. More popular establishments such as the “Three-Cent House” (“La Casa de los Tres Centavos”) date back to this time.
Banking institutions and the tobacco industry developed in unison, as did businesses such as the soap, perfume and car tire industries, all from the United States.
Powerful US companies such as the Cuban Telephone Company and the Compania Cubana de Electricidad (“Cuban Electric Company”), established during colonial times, were set up in Havana’s neighborhood of Centro Habana.
Political, pedagogical, juridical, scientific, religious and cultural ideas that had originated in the United States contributed to the “spiritual” texture of the island. The United States brought cinemas, radio broadcasters, television stations, record labels and architectural projects to Cuba. Not even the isolation brought about by the revolution has kept films, videos, music shows and computing technologies from entering the country.
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