The Plaza Vieja of Havana !!!

I was looking again at my blog and realise have wonderful old pictures on sites not really develop and they should stand alone, I went into my Havana and found me pictures from my last trip there in 2012 that needed to have a post of their own, Family memories flashing ; here is my new take on the Plaza Vieja or old square of Havana ! Hope you enjoy the post as I.

The Plaza Vieja limits with the neighborhoods to the north with Cathedral, to the west with the Prado , to the south with Belén and to the east with the Havana Bay. The area of the square is delimited by the streets Muralla, Mercaderes, Teniente Rey and San Ignacio. The square represented the first planned attempt at expansion of the city. It constituted an area used for different modalities, as a residential, commercial and recreational area, without having religious or political-military constructions.

havana Plaza Vieja walking Feb12

The square was called Plaza Nueva. It emerged as an open space in 1559, after the Plaza de Armas and San Francisco. In colonial times it was a residential neighborhood of the Creole plutocracy. Later, it was used as an open-air market known as Reina Cristina.(1835), Nowadays, the Plaza Vieja is dotted with restaurants, cafes, bars and beer gardens, even if sometimes the menu do not have all the dishes available..

The Plaza Vieja or old square was done in 1559 as Plaza Nueva,,, as already two squares in the City Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Francisco, It was surrounded by beautiful homes of the colonial times, and was an open air market known as Reina Cristina (queen Cristina), Over the past 150 years, Plaza Vieja has played host to an open-air food market, a car park (1952), and an amphitheatre. It was the site of executions, processions, bullfights, and festivals,  all witnessed by Havana’s wealthiest citizens, who looked on from their balconies. In the 18C, the Plaza Nueva was transformed into a market place. And in 1814, with the emergence of the market at the Plaza del Cristo, it was renamed to Plaza Real, Plaza Mayor, Plaza Fernando VII, Parque Juan Bruno Zayas and Parque Julián Grimau, until it finally received the name of Plaza Vieja. During the 17C to the early 20C, the area was developed with residential, commercial and recreational buildings that fortunately maintained coherence, including the majestic and popular Palacio de los Condes de Jaruco  (1738) or palace of the counts of jaruco and the first exclusive recreational society in HavanaSociedad Filarmónica, (1824) or philarmonique society housed in a residence at Calle San Ignacio no, 352-354. In this society, dances were organized in which the richest families in Havana participated. However, the building was built between 1796 and 1802.

havana Plaza Vieja resto Feb12

In the 18C, the pace of construction quickly transformed the square and between 1729 and 1756 nine portals were built, accompanying the consolidation and maturity of a type of manor house equipped with porticos, hallways, mezzanines, high rooms covered with Mudejar ceilings, wide stairs , inner courtyards with galleries. The example that survives most fully today is the old Palace of the Counts of Jaruco, built on one of the corners between 1733 and 1738, where the Cuban storyteller Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, known as the Countess of Merlin, was born.

The first buildings to be restored were the residence of the Counts of Jaruco, (see above) which currently houses the Cultural Property Fund, the Mercaderes building at no. 307, where the National Photo Library is located today, and the Franchi Alfaro house, no 315-317 was until the 19C on the street level the Café-Restaurante El Escorial, which opened in 1913. Later , it was converted into a multi-family dwelling. Even if the street level remained a commercial spot, Subsequently, the house at San Ignacio no 364, residence of the Count of Lombillo, and that of the Cárdenas sisters, headquarters of the Center for the Development of Visual Arts, were restored. The old San Ángel school, which today houses a real estate agency, the Gómez Vila building and the Ángela Landa primary school have also been restored.

However, restoration is gradually re-establishing Plaza Vieja’s original atmosphere; the Carrara showpiece fountain at the center of the square is a replica of the original 18C one by Italian sculptor Giorgio Massari that was destroyed by the construction of the car park; and many of the 18C residences around the square are now restored with housing on the top floors and commercial establishments, including several small museums and art/photo galleries, on the ground floor. This was renovated by a grant from Unesco as recently as 2011 ,before I was there,and later years,

Some current tourist sites which tells of today, not the same info as above that comes from my library of the historical stories of these places.

The official today Cuba tourist board on Havana :

The official today Infotur tourist guide to Cuba on Havana

There you go folks, another nostalgic spot in my life and happy to be able to share it with the world. Havana goes deep with me, even if now is a distant star flicking for survival, I believe you should know these places and eventually visit in better freer times , Again, hope you enjoy the post on the Plaza Vieja of Havana or La Habana as I

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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