Habana Hilton or Libre, and Yara or RadioCentro


It must be hotel day, but this is another of my favorites and a historical fixture in Havana. It is at the chic area across from excellent places, I am talking about the Habana Libre Hotel (previously the Hilton) and across the street you have Yara (previously Radio Centro) and Coppelia ,the ice cream heavens.

Let me tell you a bit about the Habana Hilton,  it was own by the Cuban Catering Workers’ Union, and was operated by the American Hilton Hotels Group . It was designed by the Los Angeles firm Welton Becket & Associates  (also designers of the Beverly Hilton, and Capitol Records in Hollywood, California USA.

Opened on March 22, 1958, with Conrad Hilton in attendance, the Habana Hilton was Latin America’s tallest and largest hotel. It boasted  Trader Vic’s , as well as a casino, supper club, pool and rooftop bar.  Following Fidel Castro revolution in Jan of 1959 the hotel became his headquarters for about 3 months on suite 2324 .  THe Hotel was run until October 1960, when all American hotels in Cuba were nationalized and the casinos permanently closed. The hotel was then renamed the Hotel Habana Libre (Hotel Free Havana).

In 1996 the Spanish Sol Meliá Hotel Group assumed management of the hotel in association with the Cuban government. It was placed in their Tryp division of urban hotels and renamed Hotel Tryp Habana Libre.

I partook in many meals with my family here, and purchase tourist post cards for the first time as a boy, a hobby that continuos to this day.  Lots of memory and a grand hotel to match any in the Americas.

The official webpage is on the Sol Melia site at http://www.solmelia.com/hotels/cuba/havana/tryp-habana-libre/home.htm

The Yara  building its an institution in Cuba. It was previously called the RadioCentro music hall. In front it was the old radiostation CMQ of  La Habana.  A bit of history, CMQ to compete with the other radio station in Cuba, decided to expand into a new building. The idea was extended and the building also housed a cinema, space for meetings and activities of the RV and Radio business, and a large shopping center. On March 3, 1946 the first stone was laid of what was to be Radiocentro a twin of the famous “Radio City” of Nueva York.  It was finished and open on December 23, 1947.

It was the best  in Latin America for technological advances in music recording from the American firm of RCA Víctor, which allow for the first time instant recording and multiple recordings from any point in the building as well as the building with the biggest area of air conditioned in Havana up to that time. It had a capacity for four radio stations such as CMQ Radio, CMBF Radio, Radio Reloj, and one open in reserve.

It was my hangout in Havana as a boy, and many movies seen there over the years, memories that will linger forever. It has no webpage but the address is Calle L 363, Vedado

Across the street was the famous Coppelia ice cream parlor. My memories with my Mom having a Pico Turquino, Ensalada, or Banana Split or Piña(pineapple) Split is nice .Now its still there but long lines and it helps if you pay in CUC the new apartheid convertible money that local Cubans dont have unless send by a relative from abroad or a friend. The memories of a great area that one day might be back to see again. no web.

You are best to contact your country of passport for information on how to travel there,and in some countries such as Canada or France there is a Cuba tourist office. The one for France is at http://www.cubatourisme.fr/

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