Cuba 1954

Last night I received an email from Julio P. containing these photos and a link to over 200 more. Julio was born during the revolution in Cuba and wanted to share these photos because of what he was not taught in school. No one ever talked about all the progress that was made in the country during the time of Batista. He never knew that hotels, buildings, streets, highways, sidewalks and parks were built during that time. He didn’t know that blacks and whites worked side by side, gainfully employed in the development of his country. It simply was not a part of the new, re-written history taught in school. These pictures prove otherwise. When you view the slide show, notice the way people are dressed, the integration of races, the abundance of stores and the shoppers and of course, the cars and busses.
That is not to say that Batista did not committ terrible crimes and that the government was not rife with corruption. It is merely a comparison. From the development of the country- the immaculate streets and buildings, the way everything was cared for, to what you see today- dilapidated buidlings, crumbling facades, chipped sidewalks, lack of stores (and private enterprise, of course) and hungry people…. well, the cars are the same, at least. So, what went wrong?
Enjoy this beautiful trip down memory lane. It is rather sad, though, to see Cuba how it used to be. If you can identify anyone in the pictures, let me know and I’ll pass it on to be included in the captions.
Click here: Cuba 1954

20 thoughts on “Cuba 1954”

  1. Thanks Julio and Claudia for sharing the amazing pictures. It’s just another testimony of the incredible damage that the Communist regime has done to Cuba.

  2. Thank you, Claudia. How beautiful. I especially enjoyed the Caballero de Paris. It boggles my mind that anyone could see these pictures in contrast to the wasteland that the castros have created and still defend the regime.

  3. I can’t believe there is a photo of El Caballero de Paris!!!
    Beautiful slideshow; how’s that for the poverty ridden, women forced into prostitution, racist, people dying of hunger, American playground pre revolution Cuba????

  4. I’m old enough to remember the 50s in the US. These photographs, and others you’ll see from that period, don’t look that different from what you would have seen in a mid-sized US city at that time – someplace like Atlanta or Baltimore or Dallas. The buses are the same, the cars the same, the people’s dress the same. Contrast that to a street scene in Havana today.
    While the billionaire bearded bastard murdered many Cubans, his worst murder may have been killing the opportunity of so many more.

  5. The signs read:
    Construye y Conserva Plan de Obras Publicas del Presidente Batista. The letters superimposed MOP = Ministerio de Obras Publicas.
    Batista – Construct and preserve
    Fidel – Destroy and waste
    You can find those pictures on the web site below. If you click on “fotos con historia” you will be able to see the pictures of some of the construction projects under Batista. Many of the pictures show when cobble stone streets in Habana were re-paved also when the new retaining walls of the Malecon were built. In the “Galeria de fotos” the pictures are current. You can see the destruction caused by fidel and his cronies. There is also a Video section. Check under “Documentaries.”

  6. By the way, some of the pictures also show when the old tramway lines were being removed and the streets repaved.

  7. Can someone tell me who el Caballero de Paris was?
    Was he famous for something or just some French guy who roamed the streets of Habana?

  8. Claudia:
    El Caballero de Paris is part of the Cuban Folklore.
    Information taken from CubanGenWeb:
    “El Caballero de París (“The Gentleman from Paris”) was a well known street person in Habana in the 1950’s. He was of medium height, less than 6 feet. He sported long unkempt dark brown hair and beard, with a few white hairs. His fingernails were long and twisted from not being cut in many years. He always dressed in black, covered with a black cloak, even in the summer heat. He always carried a portfolio with papers and a bag where he carried his belongings.
    He was a gentle man who would appear in the most unlikely places at the most unpredictable times, although he visited many places on a regular schedule. He would walk the streets and ride the buses in Habana greeting everyone and discussing his philosophy of life, religion, politics and current events with everyone that crossed his path. He could regularly be found in the Paseo del Prado; the Avenida del Puerto; in a park near the “Plaza de Armas”; near the Church “Iglesia de Paula”; in the Parque Central, where he sometimes slept on one of the benches; in Muralla street; near Infanta and San Lazaro; and in the corner of 23 and 12 streets in El Vedado. I also remember him walking along the central path of the “Quinta Avenida” (Fifth Avenue) in Miramar, where he usually was in the afternoons.
    He was a fluent and educated talker. Many still remember the times when they used to chat with him. He never begged or used bad language. He only accepted money from people he knew, who in turn would be given a gift, which could be a postcard colored by him, a pen or pencil decorated with strings of various colors, a pencil sharpener, or similar object. He often would give change to those who gave him money. Although children were initially scared by his appearance, they soon lost their fright and chatted with him. Everyone, adults and children, spoke to him with utmost respect.”

  9. thanks Claudia and Julio….
    watching the pics is like traveling in a “time machine”….although i was born after “castro”,a lot of those streets,places,etc,are remember by my sometimes flickering memory….

  10. Abajofidel:
    In 1956 there were 14 prisons in Cuba holding a total of 4,000 inmates. Today there are over 250 prisons holding over 150,000 inmates. The only things the Cuban government has built are prisons for Cubans and hotels for the tourists. All the “new hospitals” and “new schools” they’ve claimed to have built are old hospitals and old schools with a name change.

  11. Them there was a lot of public works projects for a corrupt dictatorship that oppressed its people with knowing approval of the U.S. dontchathink?

  12. Them there was a lot of public works projects for a corrupt dictatorship that oppressed its people with knowing approval of the U.S. dontchathink?

  13. The first photos are of the inauguration of the Havana Tunnel and the extension westward of the Malecon.
    I was eight years old when Castro seized power. I remember the Caballero de Paris walking into our neighborhood in his flowing robes, holding a fistful of flowers, and selling religious postcards and pencils for nickels and dimes. He saw my brother pounding on a garden wall with a hammer and chisel and quipped: “The hammer and sickle, that is the future of this country.” My dad and the neighbors laughed at how the crazy old man was always talking nonsense and how the United States would never allow Communism ninety miles from its shores.

  14. Claudia,
    Thanks. Some of these pictures and similar ones are at The Real Cuba. Your list and slide show appear to be more extensive. Very well done by you and bravo.
    The “Gentleman from Paris” is also mentioned in “Waiting for Snow in Havana.” And I believe there is even an old picture or kinsecope of him on a Cuban TV show from the mid 1950s.
    Also as a devoted “Iggles” Fan, the draft is coming up in April as well as free agent signings.
    Here’s hoping something gets done.

  15. Thanks Claudia & Julio,
    Great slideshow. I love how some of the M.O.P. signs also read: “Paz, Trabajo y Progreso.” I like that slogan much better than “Patria o muerte.”
    My dad was an electrical engineer and self-employed contractor in Havana. His company, Constructora Triplex, was responsible for the beautiful lighting along the Malecon.

  16. Speaking of El Caballero, my mother still has a religious postcard on which he scribbled a note to her in 1963.
    Me walked all the way from Havana to the home of family we had in Santa Fe (no small distance) to deliver his note which was promptly sent via snail mail to my mother – at that point in Puerto Rico. Apparently, he spent many-a-night on the porch of the family home in Miramar.
    Lovely stories about this fellow- every one.

  17. My recollections of El Caballero de Paris is very nice. I was shopping with my mother and we encoutered him on a street, he gave a bow and then recited poetry to the both of us and then gave the two of us a flower, a red carnation. I was 4 years old at the time, but I still remember. I have never forgoten that day even though it’s been almost 50 years. Someone told me that fidel had him committed to Mazorra. Do any of you know if that is true? Wasn’t there also a woman street person, named La Marquesa?

  18. Thanks for the comments, everyone but I did not put the slide show together- someone (Julio P.) sent it to me- it was sent to him. It is a wonderful collection and I am happy to have been able to share it.

  19. Thanks for the memories, mis amigos. I was eleven when Fidel Castro took over. One of the first things I confronted upon my arrival in Albuquerque as a Pedro Pan was my classmates’ impression that we lived in a third-world impoverished country. They asked me if we had electricity…duh? It was hard to convince them that we in Cuba enjoyed just about everything available here in the US: TV, radio, magazines, American movies, records (rock’n’roll in 45’s and Elvis Presley) cars, washing machines, and more–we had our own world-class artists, athletes, etc. Our roads and public transportation systems were excellent, so were our schools, hospitals, sanitation, everything necessary for a modern society. Havana had access to all the resources of any great western capital. When I see pictures of Cuba today it looks as if time had run backwards…into the first half of the 19th Century or even farther back. It’s a tribute to the stupidity of Cuba’s slavemasters that they totally neglected to keep up and expand the infrastructure necessary to carry on the daily business of life.

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