Random Cuba Info

Random Cuba Info

A Cuban architect delivered a lecture at the hotel.  It was quite interesting.  I learned that in the 19th century, the palaces were primarily neo-classic.  In the 1920’s eclectic was popular.  After World War II, Cuba embraced modern American.  I learned that Cuba does not resemble the culture of the Caribbean.  It is more European.  I believe it when I couldn’t find a hot pepper in the entire country.
The Cuban lecturer was very entertaining.   I learned that a micro brewery located on a corner is called a “corner of joy” and that a wedding palace is called “legallo.”
He added that 1/3 of Havana has been restored and since 1959 rent has been reduced by 50%.  According to the speaker, 90% of the homes and apartments are now privately owned.  Cuba is a popular tourist destination for Canadians.  Over half a million visit every year.  Since October of last year, cultural visas are available for Americans.  In that short period, over 50,000 American tourists have visited Cuba.  In fact there were two well-known tourist companies with multiple coaches at the Hotel Nacionale while we were there.
I learned that Cuba is the most important location in the Gulf because of the Gulfstream and deep protected port of Havana Bay.  The Spanish built aqueducts in the mid 1560’s.  Three fortresses were also built during that same period.  One is the oldest fortress in the Americas and one is the largest.  At one time, Havana was the most fortified city in the world.  However the British conquered Cuba in 1762.  They bombarded the city from a hill above the forts.  Trade restrictions were eased.  The Cubans could trade with America.  But the British only stayed 11 months.  Yellow fever and malaria caused them to trade Cuba to the United States in exchange for Florida.  Now Florida is back to being Cuban.  Our speaker quipped that Cubans don’t wear Bermuda shorts or drink tea because the British didn’t remain long after the conquest.
In 1952, Batista opened the door to the Mafia.  The Mafia loved being 90 miles away from the IRS and the FBI.   In 1959 during the revolution, the Cubans first destroyed the parking meters and the casinos.
Castro wanted to create a new social order of justice and equity in a city built on other principles.  Eighty percent of the city had been built between 1900 and 1958.  Castro desired to eliminate housing as a business.  Today, according to the lecturer, 120,000 are waiting for temporary housing.  Shanty towns are developing on the outskirts of Havana.  The Cubans call them Palestinians because they have no land.  Homelessness is not allowed.  It is against the law.  However 3.1 houses are crumbling each day and the average age of the homes in Havana is 75 years.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government is heavily promoting tourism.   Today’s goals for Cuba include reducing the 1.5 million government employees, allowing small private businesses to open, leasing the fallow agricultural land, and developing the real estate market for foreigners.  A memorable quote from the lecturer is one I won’t soon forget.  “The human being is the only animal that stumbles twice over the same stone.”