Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Havana, Cuba VI

I hope you're not tired of photos from Havana yet, because we have more. If you are, you'll be glad to know this is our last post.

Next up in Cienfuegos and Trinidad--smaller but equally beautiful cities in Cuba.

- Julia

Most of our photos have been from Habana Vieja (Old Havana), but the following 10 or so are from a nearby neighborhood called Vedado. Many of the buildings and homes here are mid-century style and much newer, with yards and sidewalks, but also run down and crumbling. There were a couple of historic hotels we wanted to see in the area so we walked over.
This hotel was built by Hilton in 1958 and at the time was the tallest and largest hotel in Latin America, housing a casino, supper club, pool, and rooftop bar. Less than a year after it opened, relations with the US went bad and Fidel Castro took over the hotel and renamed it Habana Libre (Free Havana). It served as his headquarters for a few decades throughout the revolution. We walked inside to see historic photos in the lobby of the guerilla army that stayed in the hotel with Castro. The hotel was renovated in the late 90s and reopened to tourists. It had a eery feeling... you could tell it was once such a glamorous hotel but even after renovation, it just looked outdated and hanging on for dear life.
Inside Habana Libre's lobby. Imagine how cool this must have been in the 50s when it was first built. Historic Hotel Nacional was a prime luxury destination for Americans when it opened in 1930 and many famous people stayed there. Now it's a World Heritage Site. It was also taken over by Castro in 1960. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara set up their headquarters there to prepare the defense of Havana. In 1946 it hosted an infamous mob summit run by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky (which was in The Godfather Part II). It was also renovated in the 90s, but will never be as great as it once was.