Directorio Telefonico de La Habana – 1958

The castro regime has done its best to re-write Cuban history. How many times have you argued with some idiot who thinks that pre-castro Cuba was a third world banana republic populated by unhealthy, uneducated peasants exploited by a U.S. controlled ruling elite?

I’m sick of it, so last night while browsing E-Bay, the moment I saw this, I knew I had to have it. Call me crazy, I won’t argue, because who in their right mind would spend that much money on an old phone book?

To me it’s a treasure worth every penny, because now I have names, addresses, and former phone numbers. I can’t wait for the day it arrives, and I know I’m going to have a zillion questions. I hope some of you will have the answers, I hope some of you will remember this:

Directoria Telefonico.jpg

17 thoughts on “Directorio Telefonico de La Habana – 1958”

  1. my abuela has that guia, i think it is a reprint that was offered a few years back, maybe at cuba nostailgia, something like that..

  2. This telephone book not only attests to Cuba’s advanced state of civilization in 1958 (tens of thousands of private businesses and manufacturers, offering everything under the sun, but, above all, choice); but it is also important because it will be a powerful weapon in the struggle to restore civilization to our country, which cannot be done without upholding the Rule of Law. It is prima facie evidence of whom owned what in Havana (businesses as well as residences). Since every province in pre-Castro Cuba also had its own telephone guides, these now constitute an island-wide census of all real property. Castro may have destroyed (and did) all property registries and many have lost their deeds in the tumult of Revolution, but this remains and this Castro cannot obliterate, not even by buying every reprint offered on eBay.

    Look my name up when you get the chance: I’m listed there, I know.

  3. I know it’s not an original, (look how new it apperars) it’s the information inside that I want. As soon as I receive it, I’ll be looking for everyone.

  4. Ziva:

    Yes it is a wonderful book, a kind of kabala of numbers and names, a silent memory recording our dead relatives, and a constant denial of the false histories of the present Cuban government. One can look up people who were and realize they were not dreams but real.

  5. A few years back, when I was going through some of my late father’s items, I stumbled on an original 1958 Havana Phone Book. The cover is not in color like the one you show, and it has advertisements stamped all over it. I was able to find the address to my father’s law office and my wife’s parents’ home addresses. It’s truly a treasure. I hope you cherish it as much as I have mine!

  6. Ziva,

    The 1958 Telephone Directory of Habana is indeed a treasure but if you want information on Cuba’s economy and businesses up to 1959 I suggest you try to get Guillermo Jiménez’s “Las Empresas de Cuba: Enciclopedia Económica de Cuba Republicana, Vol I” (number II is in the making). It lists all the business enterprises, corporations, sugar mills etc. in Cuba not just in Habana. Vol. I contain 729 pages and is a treasure trove of information. It lists the name of the business, its history, the owners, and how much the business was worth.

  7. My dads dental practice address and phone are in there:
    Dr. Jorge A Ramirez


    Yes, Cuba was a 3rd world nation run by the mafia and the United Fruit company and poor cubans were forbidden on pain of death to learn how to read or get healthcare. (sarcasm)

  8. If you are too young to remember pre-“triumph” Cuba, or never lived there, this telephone book gives you a glimpse into the Cuba that was, but is now gone.

    My in-laws’ Havana bodega is in the book. We have a picture of the store circa 1958, shelves piled high with products, and a bunch of neighbors of all colors smiling in front of the counter.

  9. As a “numbers guy” let me caution you about drawing any conclusions about a society from a telephone book.

    There is a classic precedent here that can apply to the 1958 phone book you have there.

    In 1936, a polling firm randomly chose Americans from the phone book and quizzed them on thier choice for the 1936 presidential election. The choice was the Republican Alf Landon. As we know the Democrat FDR was elected.

    The conclusion drawn was that in the midst of the depression only the middle and upperclasses had phones. The country had widespread unemployment, and the classes with phones were overwhelmingly Republican.

    The conclusion here that I see is that yes there was a thriving middle and upper class in Cuba, particularly Havana. In the countryside however there was a high percentage of poverty. How much poverty, you probably know better than I 50%, 70%?. I do not know.

    Bottom line, not all Cubans went to Belan, ate ice cream at Copellia shopped at El Encanto and vacationed in the US and Europe.

    No question castro brought Cuba down (no rationing before 1962)and caused millions to flee and eliminated the upper and middle classes (except of course the party elite).

    I’m just suspicious of drawing a conclusion from a phone book, not to defend castro or Batista, but to recognize that while advanced, there was poverty in Cuba, and it was widespread.

    To go a little further a stray, when the Bay of Pigs occured, the CIA thought that there would be a popular uprising against castro. There was not. Yes he killed or jailed or exiled much of the population, but there was the Escambray rebels, just not enough of them to overthrow castro.
    The CIA concluded that in 1961 that castro was more popular in Cuba than they had estimated.

    Enjoy the phone book as a part of nostalgia, and proof that there were segments of the Cuban population who were advanced, certainly more that today thanks to the dictator.

    Just be wary of drawing blanket conclusions about an entire society from a phonebook.

  10. JW, no one is drawing blanket conclusions about pre-castro Cuban society from a phone book. Believe me, there are numerous other sources that provide accurate historical information on Cuban economics, in spite of castro’s efforts at revision.

  11. JackW:

    Poverty in Appalachia was a lot worse (then and now) than poverty in the Cuban countryside before 1959. Still, you would be a lot closer to the truth judging pre-Castro Cuba by the 1958 Havana Telephone Directory than you would be by judging Eisenhower’s America by James Agee’s photographs.

    There was no “widespread” poverty in pre-1959 Cuba. Caloric consumption per capita in Cuba in 1958 ranked 3rd in Latin America after Argentina and Uruguay (where the people are weened on beef). We ranked 3rd in beef consumption too, btw. Please take your Marxist paradigm and apply it to some other Latin American country. Poverty had nothing to do with the Cuban Revolution, which was waged by the upper and middle classes. The poor of Cuba actually supported Batista, who had risen from their ranks and actually improved conditions for them.

    The reason that a popular upsing did not occur at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion was that Castro had already received ample warning and prepared accordingly. Nearly 1,000,000 Cubans were arrested in anticipation of the invasion, many detained in sports stadia which been wired with dynamite. Besides, three days are not enough to foment a national uprising, and 3 days is all that the freedom fighters were able to last till their ammunition ran out. Quite apart from the fact that they were denied the promised air cover, they were provided with just a 3-days supply of ammunition! Blame Kennedy and his liberal minions for the “fiasco” of the Bay of Pigs. The freedom fighters and the Cuban people are blameless for that failure of will on Kennedy’s part.

    I am well aware that you are on our side, JackW. But we need allies who will actually question Communist propaganda, not swallow it.

  12. Manuel,

    Much respect. Thanks for your input. My wish is for a free Cuba like yours. And no question about what a sorry state castro has made of Cuba. He is a butcher and a thug and call me corny but I’m a non-Cuban who when the celebrations ocurred in Miami in late July, I started to cry (with happiness).

    I didn’t think I was swallowing communist propoganda, just lending a little caution on drawing conclusions from the phone book.

    I am aware of the history you correctly cite. You may recall that in a previous post I was required to study the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missle Crisis in of all things an MBA program as a “failure” and “success” by the same ‘management team.”

    Needless to say I didn’t agree with the professor for many of the reasons you correctly mention, and one factual error in the whole premise. The management teams were different, but still part of the Kennedy administration.
    The CIA had “point” in the first, a group called “ExCom” in the Kennedy White House had the other. And yes Kennedy did call off the air cover and an arms shipment as well to the rebels.

    I could play “devil’s advocate” on that subject alone, but it will not free anyone today.

    It is true I do not agree with all the postings here, but I’m one non-Cuban who never loses sight of the primary objective.

    I wish you well.

  13. I’ve own this treasure of information since 2007, and the moment I opened it, a time tunnel opened up as well. I was 10 when I left La Habana in 1966. So I remember many things present in this directory. My father was a doctor, and we are listed, address and phone number, which I never forgot.
    When I completed my first communion, the estampitas were ordered from AL BON MARCHE,a store selling all sorts of catholic paraphernalia.Its listed. I remember going out to eat at places like LA PELOTA, EL CAPORAL, LA TERRAZA,VITA-NUOVA for pizza,EL CARMELO,and EL CENTRO VASCO.We spent our last (legal) Xmas in Cuba in 1965, and toys,although rationed already, were still coming from LOS REYES MAGOS,FIN DE SIGLO and LA EPOCA.We went to the movies a lot,as a form of escapism.I found many movie-theaters I remember listed here:Cine America, Rodi,Cine Ambar,Cinerama(now called YARA).La Habana had more movie-theaters than most other cities in Latin America.
    Between 1961 and 1966 my family and I were witness to the begining of the end. We saw with our own eyes the undoing of La Habana as a cosmopolitan city, turned into a somber village. We witnessed the gradual drying-up of businesses, the closing of previously well stocked neighborhood bodegas,throughout El Vedado.We saw and walked by empty locales where stores had existed before, and I clearly remember the many ads still posted all around Habana, advertising for things that no longer existed. I saw Coca-Cola ad-spaces turning into Che Guevara posters, and neon lights that used to advertise restaurants and products, being substituted by neon lights “advertising” the revolution. I was there, I saw the transition, and the most constant memory from those days is THE FEAR,the FEAR people had, how they whispered their opinions, how they looked at each other in silence while spending hours in line, hoping some rationed food item would arrive to what head been a local bodega, now turned into a “distribution center” of rationed goods.YES!!!I saw the stores listed here, and I was a witness to their liquidation…we saw the begining of the end. ASK AWAY IN YOU WANT.

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