Posts tagged ‘Cuba’

November 22, 2020

Cayo la Rosa, Bauta, Cuba!!!

Ok so one of the biggest enjoyment of looking back at old posts and revising them is finding out that some spots are little mentioned or left out! As my blog is part of my life’s history as well, I like to bring you to a little corner of Cuba not on the tourist trail. Well not even in off the beaten paths! This is personal and for the memories.

Cayo La Rosa, off Bauta, was a huge textile plant (Ariguanabo) of 5000 workers done by Americans now in ruins. The village have not change much, and took a ride with my cousin in an electric moto on the town, crazy but a great and cheap means of transportation there now.  And proud of myself was able to take my local driver from Havana there as he did not know how,and I did it with so many years out just on good memory lol! He was impressed!

Cayo calle 11 apr12

The Textilera Ariguanabo or textile plant Ariguanabo was created and owned by the American Burke Osborne Hedges. My dear late Mom Gladys worked there for a while. In the hands of the Hedges, the Textilera de Ariguanabo was an integrative civil and cultural project. It included an advanced social security program, a campaign for the prestige of employment, the construction of a baseball stadium, a first-aid house, an airport, a fire station, daycare centers, and the financing of various publications to cover local and national events. They introduced rotating six-hour shifts and an excellent system of credits, vacations and withdrawals. All of this was eliminated by the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Cayo La Rosa , part of the town of Bauta and of the new Artemisa province created in 2010 before it was Havana province. It is really part of the bigger town of Bauta. Bauta is a town located about 40 km (25 mi) from Havana. The territory to the south reaches up to the old Laguna de Ariguanabo (lake), now almost dried up. However, it was big and surrounded the town which is why the name is Cayo or Key La Rosa or the Rose or Key Rose! I still have an aunt and cousin living there!

The town of Bauta was found on January 14, 1879. Bauta was best known internationally as the location of a Soviet listening base intended to spy on the United States. In 2000, the service known as the Lourdes base was closed by the Russian government. Thet town is crossed by the highways linking Cuba west to east such as the autopista de Pinar del Río, the autopista Panamericana (norte) ,and the Carretera Central or central highway which we always took.

My last school in Cuba was based at Bauta, where I needed to come by bus, car, hitchhike whatever means. I did not do much school as most of the time I sneak out to go to the baseball stadium not far from there. The school was named after Nguyễn Văn Trỗi a Vietnamese electrician and fighter for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (Viet Cong). He was sentenced to death by the government of the Republic of Vietnam (south Vietnam), and was executed by firing squad. He was considered a national hero by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). And of course ,now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I believe now they have change the name,not sure.

Bauta escula nyen van throi ultima escuela en Cuba de Pedro

As you can imagine, there are no webpages for this. Just my small recollection and memories of always. These towns Bauta, Cayo la Rosa, look so distant now but never forgotten. Hope you enjoy the post anyway and maybe one day we can get to drive by them again!

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

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November 20, 2020

The fortified towers of Havana or La Habana!!!

In my swing updating some of my older posts I came upon this one. Great memories flashing my mind of better times in my Havana. One of the emblematic monuments that got it to be name Unesco World Heritage site in 1982 , was the fortified towers that serve one time as defense of the harbor around Havana. I like to tell you about 3 of them.

I guess can be call fortified towers, for us they were the torreones de la Habana.  As nostalgia sits in, once in a while, looking at my past photos, I came upon the torreones or small fortified towers used for defense along the harbor of Havana. As a boy used to go there with my dear late mother Gladys, and now when back always stopped by. I left Havana, Cuba in 1970 early to Madrid Spain, and came back to it and Cuba in 1984 (for a last farewell to my paternal grandmother who guarded me), 1998 (for a last farewell to my paternal grandfather who guarded me and to show my wife and kids my native land), and 2012 (on a company business trip from France).

The one that always caught my attention was the Fuerte de Santa Dorotea de la Luna de la Chorrera, short for Chorrera. This one was built in 1646! On the English taking of Havana in 1762-63 it was almost totally destroyed and was rebuilt after they left. This tower fortress lies at the mouth of the Almendares river.

torreon-de-santa-dorotea-de-la-luna-de-la-chorrera-1646-havana-cuba

The other nice one is the Torreon de Cojimar, built in 1649. This is made famous as it was from where Ernest Hemingway used to go to do fishing and here influenced by it wrote The Old Men and the Sea from which he won a Pulitzer prize in 1952 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.  This one too was rebuilt after the English were expelled unter the Paris Treaty in 1763 (signed at Fontainebleau). Here a bust in memory of Ernest Hemingway was built in 1962.

torreon-de-cojimar-havana-1646-cuba

One more is the Torreon de San Lazaro o Caleta; built in 1665. It was a lookout between the fortress of La Punta and Chorrera tower on a site of the old San Lazaro Hospital therefore its name . This location in the entrance of way of the bay San Lázaro, where many pirates landed and now sits in the property of the park Antonio Maceo by the Malécon (boardway  wall promenade facing the sea).

torreon-de-san-lazaro-o-de-la-caleta-siglo-xvii-havana-cuba

These are some of the off the beaten path of Havana and well worth the detour to know the city.  San Cristobal de la Habana official name, founded in 1519 by governor coloniser Diego de Velázquez is said by Unesco to hold about 144 buildings from the 14-15-16-17 centuries , more than any other city in the Americas!! webpage Unesco: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/204

The 3 torreones or fortified towers above were done by engineers as such. The Chorrera and Cojimar towers were done by Juan Bautista Antonelli, son of Bautista Antonelli the architect of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro or short Morro castle. The torreon or fortified tower of the San Lazàro o Caleta was done by the engineer Marcos Lucio.

The tourist office of Cubahttps://www.cubatravel.cu/en/Home

There you go now updated text with same old pictures. Hope you enjoy it as I did seeing them again. Havana great for my soul and memories of youth that unfortunately will never be back.

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

October 17, 2020

San Cristobal de la Habana, my Havana!!!

So once again back into nostalgia lane, this will be common in our times of covid19, wuhan virus , coronavirus etc ! I am relinquishing viewing some old post in my blog that needs update due to webpages changes routes etc. My last time in Havana was in 2012! After leaving it in 1970! However, always in my heart. Let me tell you a bit of update on San Cristobal de la Habana or simply La Habana or as most outside says Havana/Havane.

It was the ultimate Caribbean destination, the “Paris of the Americas” (by E Hemingway ), the “key to the gulf (of Mexico) the bulkward of the West Indies” (King Felipe II of Spain), to the whole of Cuba. The “most beautiful land human eyes have yet seen” (C Columbus upon arrival 1492) .It brings back memories of childhood, and still vibrates the world from no matter what place on the fence you might be. It is a beautiful city, if only can be kept in one piece.

havana C Oficio y Teniente Rey Feb12

You first arrive most likely by the Jose Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, just outside the city of Havana,and now part of the city administrative speaking; here you ,also find the Havana Zoo. The real name from its founding in 1519 was San Cristobal de la Habana (St Christopher of the Havana), the saint is the name for the genovese navigator Cristobal Colon (Christopher Colombus), Habana is an old indian word meaning a savanah between two rivers the Almendares (also the best Cuban pro baseball team before the revolution) ,and the Cojimar (famous by Hemingway fishing out). The old center is all of a UNESCO heritage site.

If you go by El Templete you will see an old oak tree where the first religious Mass was held on the island on 1519 . There lies a bust to Christopher Colombus and 3 paintings by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay (who, also, did the Cathedral!).  It gain notoriety when the Spanish crown decided that the city will hold all shipment coming from the rest of the Americas to be sent in convoy to Spain this in 1561 (to avoid pirates ransacking them) . Finally in 1592 king Felipe II declares it a city!

It fell to British rule in 1762 after a succesful attack by British ships and naval man, it was then exchange for Florida in 1763, and Havana came back to be Spanish for good by the Treaty of Paris. In 1774 the first census of the city is done with 170 000 inhabitants, and on 1796 the remains of Christopher Colombus arrives from Santo Domingo to be put in the Cathedral, later to be transfered to the Cathedral of Sevilla, (where the wood of the tomb complex is from Cuba) as the legend goes. In 1837 the first railroad is born from Havana to the town of Gûines, a first in the Spanish-speaking world.  In 1863 the old city walls were destroyed so the city can enlarge into the suburbs being the first one, the Vedado. It became a free Republic on May 20,1902 under Republica de Cuba under American protectorate by the Platt Amendment until 1934. After some not so good dictators, it fell into the worse in 1959 where still is under a communist dictatorship; second oldest in the world behind North Korea!

The longest river is Almendares for 50 kms (31 mi), and the name for an old baseball team, my family’s favorite. The highest point is at Tetas de Managua at 210 meters (693 ft). The bay of Havana is one of the biggest and best in the world. The average temperature is 25°C or about 77°F. But near the airport it has been recorded as low as 4°C about 36°F in 2010. Today it has about 2,5 million inhabitants or about 20% of the island population.

It was once the Paris of the Americas, the most chic city of Latin America until the revolution destroyed everything; streets names were changed, city names were change, people left in hordes, and more poverty than ever sets in all under the glorious revolution still there. However, it was not always like today.

It quickly grew into the city with Latin America’s biggest middle class, and Hemingway quoted “In terms of beauty only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana”. Gas public lighting came in 1848 and railroad in 1837. Most of the building were inspired by French architect and style such as the Aldama castle build in 1844. See the University of Havana, Capitol (1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA). Neoclassical like the Convent of Santa Clara, Art deco like the Bacardi building,modern like the Habana Hilton Hotel (today Tryp Habana Libre part of the Spanish group Melia), and wonderful castles like La Fuerza, Morro, Cabañas,Atares,Principe,La Punta. The grand theater also known as Garcia Lorca theater,and the biggest in Latin America, cementerio Colon (Colombus cementary).

Some of the places of interest to see in my opinion are the followings : Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña or simply La Cabaña in the west side of the harbor; Capitolio Nacional, built in 1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA; Castillo del MorroEl Templete (first Catholic Mass in Cuba), Cemeterio Colon or Colombus Cementary ,the largest in the Americas; Plaza de la Revolucion ,old Plaza Jose Marti; University of Havana, founded in 1728 and one of the oldest in the Americas; Catedral de la Habana or Cathedral, Convento de San Francisco, Convento de Santa Clara, Palacio de Aldama, Estacion Central de Ferrocarril Or the railroad station, Castillo de AtaresCastillo del PrincipeEl Torron de CojimarAcuario or national aquarium of Havana at avenida 3ra; Museo de la Revolucion in the old Presidential palace ; Fabrica Partagàs, cigars of Cuba; go outside towards Cojimar at Vigia to the house /Museum of Ernest Hemingway, his old property; Walk on bulevard PradoManzana de Gomez, a whole city block building of stores, Cinema Yara the old radio city hall, Castillo de la Real FuerzaCastillo San Salvador de la PuntaPalacio del Segundo Cabo, the home of the 2nd in line governor of old Cuba under Spanish rule; Gran TeatroTeatro Amadeo Roldan; old Captain’s General building where the only king’s throne room in the Americas is located, the site of the governor of Cuba in colonial times and today a museum, Chinatown, as the Chinese quarters.

Havana Mon Maceo Malecon apr12

The way for transport is complicated, and very saturated but its the travelers choice to mingle with the locals and feel ,see the way of life as it is. There are metrobuses lines but very unfrequent and best hire a taxi with driver, and get to ride old American cars at least on the outside. There are some long line bus companies like the locals in inter city travel use the Astro buses from the same spot as below , where if pay in foreign currency you can get a preferential seat (not verify but I was told foreigners cannot use it anymore,check). You can also take the more tourist oriented Via Azul , last I heard their hq was at Avenida Independencia No 101 corner with calle 19 de Mayo, Plaza de la Revolucion, but I never taken anything there than a car. The line via azul schedule is from a French side in pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Viazul%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

The same webpage above talks about a new service Transtur ,never heard of but apparently It offers transfer between airport and hotels pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Transtur%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

Taxis are regulated  under private individuals and agencies, these are best to be hire for all your trips. Again not use them as have someone ride me around there from the family but this site is for real: http://: https://taxincuba.com/es/index.html

Its a very friendly city that will have no problem finding help and very safe. Driving is not recommended for visitors unaware of the laws and bad road signs but if willing to the best is Havanautos company   with official webpage here: https://www.havanautos.com/AboutUs.aspx?lng=2

The gas/petrol is not plentiful and need to know where are they once you hire the car The stations are call Servi-Cupet and need to pay in foreign currency preferably euros. This is a great map application to find them and more I have it on La Rampa Centro Habana: https://cubamaps.travel/es/compras/tiendas/83623-cupet-la-rampa

For hotels or eating places with the locals try the “Casas Particulares” private folks with official approval. These are best to hire for the experience of real Cuba and Havana of course. There are several sites but I put one from there in English and French too: http://www.casas-cuba.org/index.html

The places to eat best are again at the Casas Particulares that also offered restaurant service. There are now many Paladares or private folks restaurant paying a license to operate from the government but are more typical of Cuba and Havana of course. Again several sites but this one is local as I know it Alamesa or to the table! https://www.alamesacuba.com/en/la-habana/search/#places

And a more popular Restaurant guru for Havana here : https://restaurantguru.com/Havana

Then you have the old reliable like La Bodeguita del Medio, and Floridita Bar (the best bar in the world in 1957 by Esquire magazine); El Aljibe in Miramar, La Ferminia also in Miramar,El Conejito in Vedado ,the old family hangout of rabbit dishes; Los Doce Aposteles in the Morro castle; La Divina Pastora overlooking the harbor, La Zaragozana ; El Potin, near prado and Lineaand Coppelia for ice creams are some of my family favorites.

Oh yes to get to Cuba there are many airlines, but for Cuba there is Cubana de Aviacion, webpage in Spanish here https://www.cubana.cu/

There are others foreign companies that do a lot of flights into Cuba such as COPA, AeroMexico, InterJet, Air France, Avianca, Air Europa, LAN, Comviasa, KLM, Iberia etc. Need to check flights due to covid19.

Booking and al. info on Cuba ,see the old reliable junky at http://www.cuba-junky.com/

And another old reliable Netssa at http://www.netssa.com/

The Cuban tourist organisation in Spanish/English is at  https://www.cubatravel.cu/

As the most tourist now arriving and for the last few years are Canadians, here is the Cuba tourist board in Canada in English: https://www.gocuba.ca/en/

And of course ,the tourist board of Cuba in France in French: https://www.voyage-cuba.com/

Its a city to fall in love for no matter what period of time in history you may choose to visit. Just wishing for those there, better times ahead. Enjoy the ride into my nostalgia old land. Havana is for dreamers!

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

October 16, 2020

Mexico and Jorge Negrete!

So I have come to Mexico several times over the term of my life and always nicely welcome. Now I have written several posts on Mexico in my blog, but I need to do justice to one person.

If you are from the Spanish speaking world then you should have heard of Jorge Negrete! Granted you have to be perhaps a mature person as unfortunately Jorge Negrete died in 1953. His music and movies continues on as a legacy of Mexico and Latin America and a special place for him, Cuba. I like to tell you a bit about the Plaza Jorge Negrete and the person.

mex plaza jorge negrete statue sep18

An interesting statue and this one real Mexican charro , and one of the most famous singer and actor of Mexico and well known in all Latin America is of Jorge Negrete and its Plaza de Jorge Negrete square.  Located by Ave de los Insurgentes Sur and calle Capuchinas,not far from Parque del Conde park.  Metro line 7 and 12 are close by or metrobus line 1 stop Teatro de los Insurgentes (see post on the theater).

mex plaza jorge negrete statue far sep18

Briefly, Jorge Alberto Negrete Moreno was born in Silao, Guanajuato, on November 30th, 1911 and died in Los Angeles California on December 5 1953. He studied at the military college at the age of 14 and at 18 came out with the highest qualifications which led him to perform further studies in Paris and Rome. He seemed to have a brilliant military career, because he also studied medicine and manages the military Hospital in Puebla. But at the same time he takes singing lessons, and finds out that he has a privileged voice for opera singing. He starts singing on the radio, and soon asks for his military career to end to devote himself to singing at the XETR broadcaster in Mexico City. The rest as the saying goes is history and good one. Worth a detour for the lovers of good music and films.

However, the idea of the text and new photos is to talk about Jorge Negrete for the lovers of good music and films.

His father worked as a teacher at the Alexander Von Humboldt German School, thanks to which he was able to enroll his children in that institution. There Jorge finished high school and learned German, French, English and Italian, and studied the fundamentals of Nahuatl in a self-taught way.

Later he entered the Héroico Colegio Militar or Heroic Military College, graduating as Lieutenant of Cavalry and Administration  of the Mexican Army with high qualifications. There he learned to ride a horse, a skill that he would show off by playing the Mexican charro in the cinema. Later he worked in the Fábrica de Armas de la Ciudadela or Citadel Arms Factory performing administrative tasks, and partially studied medicine.

He studied singing with José Pierson, director of the Compañía Impulsora de Opera de México, who was a teacher of notable opera singers at the time, such as Fanny Anitúa and José Mojica, and popular interpreters such as Pedro Vargas, Alfonso Ortiz Tirado and Hugo Avendaño.  In 1931, with the rank of second Captain, he applied for a license from the Mexican Army to fully dedicate himself to his singing career, starting at the XETR radio station. At that time, he performed Mexican romances and Neapolitan songs, as well as pieces by authors of the time.

In 1934, he sang for the only time at the Palacio de las Bellas Artes in Mexico City, (see post on the palace of fine arts) with the student choir of maestro José Pierson in the musical La verdad sospechosa , (suspicious truth) by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón. In November 1936 he traveled to the border on their way to the United States. In New York played as the Mexican Caballeros for the NBC network. There in April 1937 Jorge Negrete participated in an audition to be part of the cast of the Metropolitan Opera House, but was unable to do so, as he was offered a substitute role, which he refused. Desperate, he agreed to work as a waiter at “Yumurí” and other restaurants with a Latin atmosphere. He made some money making adaptations of American songs into Spanish. One night in which the singer of the dance orchestra did not appear, Negrete replaced him, and due to the success of that modest presentation he was hired by the Cuban musician Eliseo Grenet to sing with his orchestra.

In 1937 he made his first film appearance, in the Warner Bros. short Cuban Nights characterized as a Cuban troubadour. Back in the United States, in 1939 he got a contract with the 20th Century Fox company, to do films in Spanish in Hollywood, but the project did not come to fruition due to a boycott by the Union of Actors of the United States (American Actors Union) against Latino actors. Around that time, he had the first serious manifestation of the liver disease that had been diagnosed by the doctors of the Heroic Military College and that would lead him to death years later. Due to lack of resources, it could not be properly attended to.

In that same year, 1941, back in Mexico, he played the main role in ¡Ay Jalisco, no te rajes ! ( hey Jalisco do not give up) , a film that would catapult him to international fame and made him one of the greatest artistic figures in Latin America, sharing the main credits of that movie. In 1950 he received the distinction as best actor by critics in Spain, for the film Teatro Apolo. 

The radio station Cadena Azul of Cuba offered the now famous actor to sing live on its radio channels in combination with the National Theater. The affection of the Cuban people was so great that then-president Grau San Martín went to the National Theater to applaud him. After his contract ended, he traveled to Puerto Rico, but returned to Cuba to perform charity concerts, since the island had been hit by a hurricane. During these performances, non-commercial recordings of his voice were made, which would be for the station’s private use and several years later they were digitally rescued.

Jorge Negrete was a great promoter of tourism and investments for the benefit of Guanajuato, of which he always wanted to be governor and where he frequently organized festivals and artistic caravans to support the construction of the central headquarters of the University of Guanajuato, a hospital, a dispensary and the temple of the Calzada de Guadalupe in his hometown. He was married towards the end of his life with the actress María Félix (another great one of Mexico and Latin America). The wedding with María at the Catipoato farm,  featured the most well-known celebrities of the show, as well as intellectual figures, such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, María Teresa Montoya and Octavio Paz, as well as famous bullfighters and athletes of that time, among others. He only had one daughter, Diana Negrete with his first wife Elisa Christy.

Jorge Negrete founded the Union of Cinematographic Production Workers of the Mexican Republic and reorganized, together with a select group of actors, the National Association of Actors (ANDA), of which he was its most prominent leader.

The day of his death was considered national mourning and five minutes of silence were observed in all theaters in the country. At the Mexico City airport alone, about 10,000 people gathered to receive his body. In the theater of the A.N.D.A that today bears his name, his mortal remains remained exposed for the people to pay tribute to him. His admirers walked in front of his coffin in an unbroken line for two days and nights. On the day of his burial, a human fence of hundreds of thousands of admirers skirted the path of the National Actors Association Theater ,today Jorge Negrete Theater  to the Panteón Jardín, south of Mexico City.

A bit more on the life of Jorge Negrete in English: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0624434/

There I feel I made justice to a great person ,singer, and actor of my Latin America. And reminds me of the wonderful welcome always given me in Mexico Lindo y Querido!!! Hope you enjoy the cultural post.

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

October 4, 2020

For me it all began here a looong time ago, Punta Brava!!!

Ok so September was a nostalgic month as both I and my dear late wife Martine had our birthdays. Let me tell you a bit more on a personal note as to where I was born. Intrigue.? It has been a long trip of four nationalities now and 81 countries visited, and 5 countries live/work and 4 languages. Ok here is where started it all;  my birthplace of Punta Brava!!

Punta Brava is a small town located just to the southwest of  Havana or La Habana, with roughly 1500 inhabitants, and now part of the municipal district of La Lisa (which was and still is a town of my days). Me and my Dad Elio in the front of the house; the one on the right is my paternal grandparents house!!!

punta-brava-house-punta-brava-with-father-behind-6-yrs-old

Initially, this area is made up of four large farms owned by Valencians, (Valencia, Spain)  which were called: Armonía, Señorita Tarafa, Tejar Grande or Punta Diamante and Divina Pastora. A certain ,Judge Francisco Castro Palomino remained in charge of them, once the owners left for Spain. Towards 1870 without news of the original owners, it was decided that these farms were subdivided into plots of land, the owners of these paid a small practical monthly payment that was maintained until January 1959. Photo showing my deeper roots!

punta-brava-circulo-social-in-punta-brava

In Cuba, we are known for being the site of a great battle for independence from Spain. At the San Pedro farm, near the town of Punta Brava,  on December 7, 1896, General Antonio Maceo y Grajales,the Bronze Titan, fell in combat. Ironically, the Spanish company who took part in the battle included Angel Castro, the father of Fidel Castro!!! Ironie of life of things to come. Photos me in the central park! and my house!!

punta-brava-parque-central-pedro-febles-10-yrs-old

punta-brava-me-in-my-living-room-punta-brava-at-4-yrs-old

punta-brava-house-terrace-punta-brava

In continuing my saga of remembrance of my life’s corners and meandering places I now take you back to where it all began for me a looong time ago, Punta Brava.  I was born there ! Now with the new revolution, all that history is gone and hardly ever mentioned. Cuba has change a lot, it’s not the same , and for me,  it will never be the same….

la-habana-pedro-at-4-yrs-old-el-arte-photo-studio-havana

Now, only memories lingered, and some places of share family values and love. Far far away, it seems difficult to even write that upon my latest visit in 2012, the area where I grew up seems different….well unrecognizable…. well poorer. It seems to me like I was not from there. It required some days of adjustment for things to come back again.

This post is to all and especially to me as  a reminder of what it was, a lingering space in time of a once upon a time place call Punta Brava, city of Havana metropolitan area, Republic of Cuba.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Enjoy the stories, I read them myself once in a while just to keep my feet on the ground. Glance my personal old photos, all meaningful as a source of my DNA. Enjoy the pictures, as my dear late mom Gladys took me to El Arte photo studio, and feel the people when visiting , they are the main things, the regular guy on the street. In 1998 I took my dear late wife Martine to visit with our boys very little and it was a hit with the family!

la-habana-estudio-el-arte-mima-y-pedro

No tourist webpage for this, just real story real memories to lingered forever and seeking new lands, always look back, it is you. Punta Brava is me, forever!

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

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June 4, 2020

Going to Punta Brava!!!

And here I am again in nostalgia lane going back to my roots. Indeed I have been lucky enough to travel the world, 81 countries last count. However, it all goes back to one.. Ah well where is Punta Brava, well there is quite a few towns in various countries with the same name even back in my grandparents land of Tenerife, Spain. However, we were later and my Punta Brava sits in Havana, Cuba. 

Let me tell you a bit on my Punta Brava town of about 2K folks where I was born and left 49 + years ago.

Punta Brava is a town part of the agglomeration of La Lisa nowdays under the new administrative arrangement after the Cuban revolution. Before , it was alone just inside the city limits of Havana. It is about 21 km (about 13 mi) of city center/downtown Havana. Nearby settlements include Machurucutu to the north, La Lisa city to the east, Bauta to the southwest, and the University of Information Sciences to the southeast.

Punta Brava

There is lots of confusion as to its origins as my family claims it was around 1870 when the point coming from the Tabacco plantations and its wealth in Vuelta Abajo Pinar del Rio province passed by here on its way to the port of Havana and onwards to Spain. However, around this point bandits always ransacked the convoy so it became a punta brava or hot point. The other is that the origin of the town baptized as San Vicente de Punta Brava, located on the banks of the Camino Real de Vuelta Abajo (royal road of vuelta abajo or downward road) ,but with no mention of the bandits. In Punta Brava, at the time of its appearance as a town, there was a tile manufacture factory who made bricks. Its producs were famous for its quality, and were considered then, as the best brick tile in Cuba. In this town there were also large pineapple packers ((and as boy it was gone and we played baseball!), destemming, packing and tobacco picking workshops, cart and car workshop, and Maidenform women undergarment (my mother worked) as well as other establishments that show the economic development reached by Punta Brava at the end of the 19C.

A major event that was celebrated nationally until the revolution stopped it took place on December 7, marking the death in combat of Cuba’s greatest general. This was on the San Pedro farm, loma or hill of Cacahual, near Punta Brava, on December 7,1896, General Antonio Maceo y Grajales fell in combat. It has been the scene of different military encounters during Cuba’s fight for independence, and is most notable as the site where Maceo died at the hands of Spanish troops. For the anecdote the revolutionary dictator Castro’s father, Ángel Castro Argiz,was happy of this event as his company was the one involved in the killing of the General Maceo on this day. Angel was born in Lugo, Galicia, Spain. Fidel’s father.

 Nowdays, Punta Brava is currently like an empty, abandoned, lonely space. The splendor of yesteryear has disappeared in 61 years of socialist revolution. Of the old traditions and rituals, little or nothing remains. Without a doubt, its inhabitants are trapped in the middle of nowhere. As if they were lost in time.

Punta Brava

outside Ford 1954 inside ??

During the missile crisis,1962, the Soviets reportedly built a missile site in Guayabal near Punta Brava. By Punta Brava, passed the old Central Highway, which connects with all of Cuba, going to Arroyo Arenas, Lisa, Marianao and Havana and beyond to Pinar del Rio, and the other way going by Bauta and into the Matanzas and the rest of Cuba. It was connected by rail with its own station from at least 1909. There are several airports in relatively close proximity to Punta Brava including Playa Baracoa Airport which has been mostly used by the military and some permitted passenger service. The Havana Jose Marti international airport is at Rancho Boyeros not far at 15 km (about 9 mi).

With my mom and aunt (her sister) we used to go a lot to El Salado beach not far from Baracoa beach and airport. This was a sandy beach and some huts nice family getaway , now they have more stones… but some tourist services there.

Punta Brava

Another favorite beach of my family were Guanabo ,Santa Maria del Mar ,and of course Varadero. Do not have pictures of the first two but did visit Varadero again in 1998.

Varadero

my native town Church is the Iglesia Nuestra Senora de la Caridad ( Church of Our Lady of Charity,) which is also Cuba’s Patron Saint  located at Ave. 249  betwen  42 and 44 streets, I grew up at Ave 247 in Punta Brava. Again not much on it just for the memories. When Pope John Paul II visited Cuba shortly after the Virgin of  Charity (Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre) or the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary , patron Saint of Cuba was brought all over and passed by Punta Brava! My family sent me the photo.

Punta Brava

While in my last visit in 2012, , I asked my assigned driver to take me to my native town of Punta Brava, visiting family aunt and cousins (which by now left Cuba too) , I ate at a typical Cuban casa paladar in pesos nacionales (for the locals as tourist have the apartheid convertible pesos), a dish of roast pork,moros black beans,yucca, tostones in garlic sauce (green plantains) , salad of tomatos and lettuce, plus coffee and four beers for two persons at about 260 Cuban Pesos Nacionales. The place was just in Calzada (main street Avenida 51, aka Central Highway) before turning left to Guatao,if coming from Havana. It was nice as was there with my remaining family at the time.

If you want to see my pictures as a boy in Havana/Punta Brava I have a post in my blog with these old photos; here: Paris1972-Versailles2003 blog on Punta Brava Havana child days post

As said , the time passes by and all we have is blurred memories of always. A time, a place, a dot in my world map, that is in another world. Hope you enjoy this personal post on my always Punta Brava, Havana, Cuba!

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

June 3, 2020

A step back in time, my Havana!

So looking at my vault of photos or rather CD-Roms I came up some older photos of a time gone by of memories not to be forgotten and family roots. I have written several posts on this native experience of mine very translucent as the times goes by and memory starts to flicker. Let me tell you a bit about my dear Havana or La Habana or San Cristobal de La Habana.

It was the ultimate Caribbean destination, the “Paris of the Americas” (Hemingway ), the “key to the gulf (of mexico) the bulkward of the West Indies (Caribbean_ King Philip II of Spain), to the whole of Cuba. It brings back memories of childhood, and still vibrates the world from no matter what place on the fence you might be. It is a beautiful city, if only can be kept in one piece. It was once the Pearl of the Antilles, the most chic city of Latin America until the revolution destroyed everything; streets names were changed, city names were change, people left in hordes, and more poverty than ever sets in all under the glorious revolution still there. I need to say this.

We spent many times by the Malecon and going in by the Paseo del Prado going into the Capitol (see post)/ last trip we were on a Ford 1954 lol!! things indeed change.

havana

All the Malecon area now is half and half some renovated with the help of Unesco and other crumbling. We just saw the inner soul of the buildings like the fabled Riviera hotel, and tried to remember what they were before…

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Then, we went under the bay of Havana on the old Tunnel that we enjoyed so much riding it.

Havana

And we passed by the University of Havana, where my Mom did studies before transfering to the Catholic Univ ,sister univ of Villanova in Philadelphia , PA USA at the time.

Havana

We passed by another favorite of my family that took me there still very early in my life. This is the Cinema Trianon!  It is at Avenida Linea beween A Street & B Street. It was built in 1920 ,and completely re-modeled in 1955 and became the release theatre for 20th Century Fox films. My picture is from when it was renovated back in 1998.

Havana

And we move on to the Morro Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) where the remodeled all castle had a nice restaurant call the 12 Apostoles or apostles. My dear late wife Martine enjoy the trip down to my roots.

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And this is end of the trip for me with the pictures I found, bear in mind these are paper photos that I took a picture from. The pictures all date from 1998 when we went from France.  

One more post down memory lane, many moments spent with the family now almost all gone from there. I was the first one! 49 years ago…..Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Havana is a city to fall in love for no matter what period of time in history you may choose to visit.  Enjoy the ride into nostalgia land.

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

March 25, 2020

The Gentlemen from Paris, Havana!

And here is a nice story of my lointime Cuba. This was very popular and all our grandparents told us stories of him. One of the souvenirs is that I actually saw him in Havana before leaving long ago. It’s about time I write about him in my blog.

Therefore, this is story of the Gentlemen from Paris or El Caballero de Paris.

The story goes that José María López Lledín was an elegant vagabond known as El Caballero de París (The Gentleman From Paris) who wandered the streets of  La Habana (Havana) and was a well-known cult figure in the city. According to the birth certificate issued by the district court of Fonsagrada  in Lugo, province of Galicia, in Spain , López Lledín was born in the village of Vilaseca, located near the Asturian border and the Eo river.  The fourth of eleven children, was born on 30 December, 1899 in Vilaseca, in the Municipality of Fonsagrada, Province of Lugo, Galicia. As many in Cuba came from this region of Spain.

Traveling in the German passenger ship S.S. Cheminitz, he arrived in Havana at twelve years of age on 12 December, 1913. His mother was Josefa Lledín Mendes and his father was Manuel Lopez Rodriguez; the owners of a small vineyard, they produced and sold wine and Sherry. He was baptized in the Parish of Salvador de Negueira.

According to his sister Inocencia, he worked as a tailor and in a bookshop. Later he worked as a waiter in the hotels Inglaterra, Telegrafo, Sevilla, Manhattan, Royal Palm and Saratoga. There are many stories as to why he lost his mental sanity but all of them converge on the fact that he was imprisoned in the Castillo del Principe ( Prince’s castle, used many times as a prison) in 1920 for a crime he did not commit.

El Caballero de París was a cult figure in Havana in the 40s and 50s. He was of medium height, disheveled hair with some gray hair and a beard. He always wore black, with a long coat of the same color, even during the summer. He used to carry a folder full of papers. He was a gentle and educated man who roamed the streets and traveled by bus all over the city, greeting people and discussing philosophy, religion and politics. He never asked for alms or said bad words, he only accepted money from people he knew or liked.

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 Calle Muralla street; near streets Infanta and San Lazaro; and in the corner of 23rd and 12th streets in El Vedado.  It is remembered seeing him walking along the central path of the Fifth Avenue (5th ave) in Miramar, where he usually was in the afternoons. I am not sure but i believe i saw him by the Parque Central.

He was late in life diagnosed as suffering from Paraphrenia, a late-onset mental disorder featuring such symptoms as delusions and hallucinations; it does not have any negative symptoms such as the deterioration of the intellect or of the personality.

You can listen in Spanish a popular song created by a popular singer of the times Barbarito Diez, call El Caballero de Paris, video still available in youtube here

 

There is a statue to perpetuated his presence in bronze, so that his figure will wander forever in the streets of Havana.  Where I have a souvenir photo from 2012 here

havana

This illustrious man was a permanent presence in the city which, from the decade of the 20s of the last century and until 1977, saw him wandering through its streets. He died on July 11, 1985 at Mazorra psychiatric hospital atage of 86. He was initially buried in the cemetery of Santiago de las Vegas in Habana province. His remains were later exhumed by the Historian of the City of La Habana, and transfered to the convent of San Francisco de Asis (now a concert hall and museum), his current resting place.

After the Communist Cuban revolution, the brothers and sisters left Cuba and only El Caballero de Paris was left behind. Three of his brothers had descendants, some now living in Chicago and others in Asturias, Spain. The only surviving sister of El Caballero de Paris, Mercedes, was living in Spain,was last read 91 years old , and in perfect mental and physical health.

No official webpage for him but there are many private efforts on the web; i just will put one here CiberCuba in Spanish; CiberCuba on El Caballero de Paris

Hope you enjoy this unique anecdote of Havana and do look out for him if going there. Hope it helps find him. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

March 22, 2020

Plaza Vieja, Havana!!

And as I am feeling nostalgic and long away from having spoken about these spots almost from the beginning of my blog’s history and think not enough said. Therefore, I am telling you a bit more about the wonderful Plaza Vieja in old Havana, Cuba!

This is a wonderful spot for strolls alone the old Havana district which is full of history even if some repairs are needed due in fact to the dictatorship blames on someone else, you get my picture.

In fact, the Plaza Vieja has been renovated thanks to a grants by Unesco for the preservation of heritage in Cuba.  It is really 24 km or about 15 miles to where I was born.

The Plaza Vieja or old square was done in 1559 surrounded by beautiful homes of the colonial times. It is bordered by the streets of Teniente Rey, Muralla, San Ignacio and Mercaderes all in Old Havana of course.

havana

Plaza Vieja is one of the many beautiful squares of old Havana. Built in the 16C, it would have served as places of gathering, parties and market. From an architectural point of view, it is one of the most beautiful squares in Havana. You will see very beautiful colonial buildings dating from the 16C to the 19C. Plaza Vieja is said to have benefited from a Unesco restoration campaign in the 1980s, which explains its neat appearance. In fact, there are mostly upscale restaurants and hotels

havana

Over the past 150 years, Plaza Vieja has played host to an open-air food market, a park, and an amphitheatre. Plaza Vieja was the site of executions, processions, bullfights, and Fiestas,  all witnessed by Havana’s wealthiest citizens, who looked on from their balconies.

This was Havana’s third open space after Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco. It is said that Franciscan monks requested that a new square be constructed where local vendors could carry out their business activities away from the Plaza de San Francisco, where they were hindering the celebration of masses. The new square was completed in 1559 approximately one hundred meters from the convent. It was called precisely Plaza Nueva  or new square, and gained in popularity right away. Some authors claim, however, that in fact this was the second square to be built in Havana, before the Plaza de San Francisco.

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 Palacio de los Condes de Jaruco (or palace of the counts of jaruco) and the first exclusive recreational society in Havana, Sociedad Filarmónica, (or philarmonique society) housed in a residence at Calle San Ignacio 352-354. Curiously enough, no religious or military constructions were ever built around the square.

In 1908 the old market was demolished to make room for a park which was regrettably transformed into an underground parking garage in 1952. The underground parking garage was torn down and a replica of the original fountain was placed in the center of the square.  The original Carrara marble fountain surrounded by four dolphins was demolished in the 1930s when President/dictator Gerardo Machado built an underground parking lot here. There is a simpler fountain there now.

There is no official webpage to showcase the square at least that I could find, so will leave you with Cuba’s official office of tourism in English.  Tourist office of Cuba on Havana

The site on the organization for Unesco heritage cities in English on Havana here: Org heritage cities Unesco on Havana

Hope it helps your walks in my dear Plaza Vieja in old Havana, its like going back in times, better times for me.

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

March 22, 2020

Hotel Nacional, Havana!!

Let me bring you back out way back to another time another era in my life. Memories always popping in and out and yet so far. I like to tell you a bit more on the Hotel Nacional, Havana, Cuba!

It is magical ,still there gleaming at you, hearing the waves bang against the rocky hill below, and the Strait of Florida in front of it. It has been thru all the episodes in Cuban history since its construction in 1927. Knowing it is to know Havana (San Cristobal de la Habana) a bit more, and Cuba too.  This is simply the Hotel Nacional. Update found me another picture of the patio and the peacock!

The Hotel Nacional officially open from 1930, it was designed by an American architectual firm of McKim, Mead & White (they also build the National Museum of American History in Washington DC as others). A bit of history  says that in the 19C, the hill on which the hotel stands held the famous battery of Santa Clara. The “Ordoñez” cannon, one of the largest of its time, still lies in the hotel’s gardens. On the headland of Punta Brava,(same name of my native town!!!) Corregidor Don Luis Aguilar chastised the British during the seige and assault of Havana. The hotel’s most famous and luxurious restaurant is named after him.

havana

Some of the memorable people who have stayed here over the years are Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete,Agustin Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Romulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne , Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as Winston Churchill, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Alexander Flemming, and  innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs.

Havana

It was the site of a bloody battle in September 4, 1933 pitting the Cuban Army officers who participated in the coup d’état to overthrow President/dictator Gerardo Machado and the non commissioned officers and rank who supported the new strong man Fulgencio Batista. The US ambassador Sumner Welles lived here while the transition in the Cuban government took place.  In December 1946, it was the meeting of a mafia figures such as Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, jr, Frank Costello, Albert Anastacia, Vito Genovese and many others that was later characterized by Francis Ford Coppola in the movie, ” The Godfather ,part II”.

By 1955 the hotel was in full swing, and under new management, created  a new wing consisting of Clark’s famous Casino Internacional, the adjoining Starlight Terrace Bar and the Casino Parisién night club in january of 1956 with the first presenter been Eartha Kitt. The casino was closed by new President/dictator Fidel Castro in October 1960, as well as the hotel nationalised. It is now under management by the government supported Gran Caribe group. This is their webpage on the Hotel Nacional: Gran Caribe group on the Hotel Nacional

For me it meant many afternoon visiting the patio with grandparents and/or parents, and sipping a delicious cold Coca Cola with lemon and plenty of ice. When visited the island there was no doubt to come here again, just to be quiet and listen to the winds and the waves cracking below in the ocean. Memories that still linger with me since childhood. You will be embracing Cuban history and perhaps a quiet moment listening to those same waves.

Hope you enjoy the post and why not one day do stay there it is the ultimate in Cuba.

The official Hotel Nacional webpage is here : Hotel Nacional at Havana

And there you go folks when in Havana, the Hotel Nacional is a lot more than a vacation, its the history and architecture of Cuba in one spot. Hope you enjoy the post.

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

 

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