Can Cuba’s architectural heritage survive the Castro’s?

Perhaps the best marker for determining whether not a country will preserve their architectural heritage is their measure of freedom.  This photo album from Speigel International, displaying selected buildings in East Germany before the fall of communism and recent photos of  the same buildings after resoration, provide some hope that one day Cuba’s architectural heritage can be at least partially restored.  Lost forever though are the thousands of buildings that have collapsed or will have to be demolished due to neglect, along with the human stories held in their walls. 

The corner of Tucholsky Strasse/August Strasse in Berlin Mitte, 1991:before image-135681-galleryV9-vdte 
And in May 2002:after image-135683-galleryV9-xwpv

 Hard to say just based on this handful of photos, but it seems that la Habana these days looks more like Nagasaki or Hiroshima after the atom bomb than East Germany after the years of Soviet rule. 

la Habana

I agree with an opinion expressed in the documentary,  Havana – The New Art of Making Ruins/Habana – Arte Nuevo de Hacer Ruinas , that the destruction of infrastructure by the Castro’s has been deliberate, and I wonder,  how can so many magnificent beloved structures be rebuilt with today’s price tag, and what will be left of that pearl so many hold in their hearts?

H/T:  Joe Lima

2 thoughts on “Can Cuba’s architectural heritage survive the Castro’s?”

  1. Ziva,
    Good post! Architecture is close to my heart. After all, a country’s architecture is a good measure of its prosperity and certainly it’s history. All Cubans were proud of Havana’s beauty, dubbed the Paris of the Caribbean for its broad avenues, open-air cafes, beaux-arts and colonial buildings, today it is in ruins, a shell of what it once was. As the documentary you cite mentions, castro allowed Havana to fall to pieces–in fact her percipated the destruction. What’s more, he relished in destroying it. A singularly evil man who hates Cubans, I don’t think that even the worst Soviet-era dictator is worst than castro. Perhaps Ceasescu comes a distant second, but castro’s destruction of not only Cuba’s architectural patrimony, but her fauna and flora, and the character of her people is among the worst in modern history.

    While some of her colonial buildings have been restored under Eusebio Leal Spengler, one wonders what type of material they are using? Example, do they use marble to restore marble, or perhaps some cheaper material? Also, there is painfully no end in sight to the dictatorship, yes, castro is slowly dying, but his brother is still fit and I’m sure that there is someone else in the wings when raul dies. This has become a hereditary tyranny. I bring this up because the longer the dictatorship lasts, the more likely that what is left will be lost for ever. Despite the much praised restoration going on in Cuba, it is limited [to profit making endeavors such as turning colonial buildings into hotels] and it is slow and ineffectual. Recently, I read about a historic theater collapsing crushing people. Also, it is no secret that Mr. Leal Spengler–the City Historian– has an establishment in Spain where he sells Cuban antiquities. No doubt these antiquities are taken from the buildings that he is restoring. So much for the mainstream media praised restoration by Havana’s lionized city historian!

  2. The same ex-Castro operative who “outed” Cardinal Ortega did the same for Eusebio Leal.

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