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Cuba

December, 2000

 

 

Our Trip

Thursday, November 30 Travel day

Friday December 1, Capitol, Theater / Ballet

Saturday December 2 Cemetery, Hemingway House, Port, Fort

Sunday December 3, Car Tour, Lennon / Lenin, Tropicana

Monday December 4 Museum

Tuesday December 5 Travel home

 

 

The lead up to the trip:

My uncle, Harold, at 70 years old, wanted to go to Cuba. He was not in the best of health, and he could only walk a very short distance before he had to sit and rest. But he wanted to see Cuba, and  I wanted to see Cuba. It is a Communist country.  I was intrigued with Communism at a very early age. I wrote (and Dad typed) my Civics term paper "Our right to Democracy Impedes on Their Right to Communism". I was 12 years old.

 

Then I heard Harold wanted to go to Cuba.  I said Yes immediately.  I wasn't till later that I realized why:

I had been to several Communist countries in the world, so I really wanted to see Cuba.  Here's my current vitae: 

Current communist (Marxist-Leninist) states that I have visited: China, Cuba, Vietnam
Non-communist states with communist majority that I have visited: Nepal
Previous communist states that I visited: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia
Post-Soviet states that I have visited: Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia


The one current communist (Marxist-Leninist) state that I have NOT visited is Laos.  

BTW, North Korea is NOT communist!!!  It is "Juche", which is a Socialist state although the government's official ideology is now the Juche part of Kimilsungism, Kimjongilism policy of Kim Il-sung, as opposed to traditional Marxism, Leninism. In 2009, the constitution of the DPRK was quietly amended so that not only did it disavow all Marxist "Leninist references present in the first draft, but it also dropped all reference to 'Communism'.

I jumped on the opportunity to tell the family I would take him. The family was not happy. I was ecstatic about the opportunity and I arranged it.

I found a web site: Cubatravelusa.com that could handle all the bookings.  We had to get to Cancun and "Dan" would take care of the rest. The trip was six days/five nights:  Thursday, November 30 to Tuesday, December 4.

There is a list of hotels on their web site http://www.cubatravelusa.com/hotel_only_prices.htm

I picked the Plaza hotel because of the location.  In 2000 the rates were

Plaza Hotel               Nov 1- Dec 14      46 per person for a double        71 for a single

Now, in 2017 the Plaza is a four-star hotel and rates are

Plaza Hotel               Nov 1- Dec 21     139 per person for a double        227 for a single

 

Our confirmation and invoice:

I have confirmed the following reservations:

November 30.....fly to Havana on Aerocaribe at 7:25 P.M.

November 30 - December 4 (5 nights).....Plaza Hotel (two beds)

December 5.....return to Havana on Aerocaribe at 7:00 A.M.

INVOICE: Total package price is $544 per person.

Seriously!  $544 per person.  I mailed a check to "Dan" in Texas.

Thursday, November 30 Travel day

 

I flew from Atlanta to Houston to Cancun. Harold flew from Tulsa to Houston to Cancun. I got there an hour before Harold. At the Aerocaribe counter, I found the Divermex rep and gave him my confirmation number.  He gave me our airline tickets, vouchers for the Hotel Plaza, including breakfast, voucher for the transfer, and for the visa.

He said we would have to pay $15 cash for the visa per person, and a $20 departure tax per person in both Cancun and Havana when you leave.

He said to use the birth certificate and picture ID when you enter Mexico, and re-enter the U.S. Use your passport only to enter and exit Cuba, but ask them NOT to stamp your passport.   For more details, go to http://www.cubatravelusa.com/Travel_Tips.htm

 

Harold did a little research and packed medical supplies, including band aids, aspirin, gloves, vitamins, soap

The goal was to try not to spend money in Cuba.  The exchange rate was 20 pesos is $1 USD.

 

We flew to Havana on Aerocaribe at 7:25 P.M.

The Arrival Hall in Havana was HOT and it was crowded.

There was a very long and winding line in the Havana arrival hall.  Small room, maybe 200 people zig zagging around each other.  Very hot. Very, very hot. No place to sit.  Harold was a trouper.  We were probably standing for over 2 hours‚¦  Get to the window, they look at the US passport then hand it back to me.

We finally arrived at the Plaza Hotel at 1 am. There were no rooms available! Oh noo!  We were oh so very, very tired. They found a room at another hotel and arranged a taxi. 

This is Harold in the shuttle to the other hotel, the Habana Riviera   www.hotelhavanariviera.com   Address:  Paseo No-1 e/ 1ra and Malecon, Vedado, Havana, Havana 10400

From their web site: A veritable 50s museum with a convenient location on Havana's emblematic seafront promenade (Malecon). 

Finally, we are in a room with beds, and get to sleep.  Then morning.  What a view! Amazing ocean waves pelting the road, spraying the cars.

This is my picture from our hotel room: 

From our hotel room: What?  a coffin-shaped swimming pool? 

   In Parque Central there are 8 coffin-shaped stonemasons representing medical students shot by the Spanish Government of the Island during the Ten Years' War on November 27, 1871. I wonder if that is why this swimming pool at our hotel is coffin-shaped?

 

El Malecon  is the avenue that runs beside the seawall built along the northern shore of Havana. It stretches for 5 miles along the coast in Havana, Cuba.

It forms the northern boundary of Old Havana, Centro Habana and Vedado.

This picture is from: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/11/scenes_from_havana.html

 

Friday December 1, Capitol, Theater / Show

 

We checked out of the Riviera hotel, checked into Plaza Hotel.  http://www.hotelplazacuba.com/   Ignacio Agramonte No. 267, Habana Vieja, La Habana, Old Havana, Havana, Cuba Old Havana

 This is my picture of the Plaza Hotel.  Old fuel truck, and horse carriages out front.

 

 Here is Harold enjoying the bed, with the television remote in hand. I can't remember if we had any English television channels.

 

It was nice room with two beds, in a great location. From their web site:

 

This is from the Plaza hotel web site:       Surrounded by the Museum of Fine Arts, the Bar Floridita, the Capitolio, Central Park and more of Havana's top sights, Hotel Plaza offers good accommodation at a good price and the location can't be beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Plaza Hotel lobby

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The Plaza Hotel Atrium

This is my picture of our view from the Plaza Hotel.  Seriously. It doesn't get any better than this:

 

 

Arturo took us on walking tour. 

Parque Central was across the street from the hotel and we walked to the Capitol and the Grand Theater.

"El Capitoloi Nacional" (National Capitol Building)

 

National Capitol Building (El Capitolio Nacional)

Built  1926 - 1929. 

8,000 laborers worked 8-hour shifts 24 hours a day, and completed the building in 3 years and 50 days. 

Dome is a 300 feet (92 m) high. It looks like United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. but "richer in detail".   The architect claimed to take his inspiration for the cupola from the Pantheon in Paris.

It was the seat of the government in Cuba - The Cuban Congress, both the House of Representatives and Senate were based in the building until the Cuban Revolution in 1959.  Congress was abolished and disbanded .

The building is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences (Museo de la Cuidad) and the National Museum of Natural History (Museo Nacional de Historia Natural)

 

There are 12 granite Roman style 46- foot tall columns arranged in two rows

45 steps lead to the main entrance. The first floor is open to visitors. Many of the rooms are used to host conferences and meetings.

 

A huge Statue of the Republic (La Estatua de la Repulica) is Inside the main hall under the cupola.

             

 

It is world's third largest statue under cover - after the Great Buddha of Nara and the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.

49.25 feet (15m) tall (57.5 including the stand œthe plinth" and weighs 49 tons

A a "Creole Cuban", inspired by Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

Cast in bronze in Rome in three pieces and assembled inside the building

Covered with 22 carat (92%) gold leaf

Embedded in the floor in the center of the main hall is a replica of a 25 carat (5 g) diamond.

It marks Kilometre Zero for Cuba - all Highway distances between Havana and all sites in Cuba are calculated from this point.

The original diamond (from Russia) was stolen in 1946

 

Beyond the portico, there are three large bronze doors with bas-reliefs by Zanelli allow access to the main hall.

 

Check out the scratched out dude on the end:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's a Cyber Cafe in the Capitol!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On each side of the main hall is the Salon de Pasos Perdidos (Hall of Lost Steps) - named for its acoustic properties.

The halls have inlaid marble floors and gilded lamps.

There are two semicircular chambers that formerly housed the Parliament, and the Chamber of Deputies.  "At present, it is used for events."

The Parliament chamber to the right of building is backed on to by the President's office which has a door opening directly onto the dias.

 

The former Parliament chamber, Havana Capitol Building

photo by "Robotbreeder" 
Suzanna at the helm, Havana Capitol building
 
  Suzanna, Director of Government Affairs,
Junior Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta, Georgia,
House of Representatives, Georgia Capitol 

 

From the Capitol, you can see this fountain

Fuente de la India ("Fountain of the Indian woman") "Habana" in whose honor Havana was named.  Famous symbol of Cuba.

A  fountain by Giuseppe Gaggini in front of the Capitol, Parque Central and Hotel Saratoga. White marble with four dolphins, that pour water on the huge shells that form its base.

 

The THEATER Located across from Central Park 

 

The Gran Teatro de La Habana  (Great Theatre of Havana)

Gran Teatro de La habana - Located across from Central Park

Built in 1837, but that original building was demolished and this neo-baroque architecture style building built 1908 and opened in 1915.

It is the oldest operating theater in the Western Hemisphere.

It has a glorious rich history; the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso sang, the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova danced, and the French Sarah Bernhardt acted.

2000-seats. 

The National Ballet of Cuba and the State Opera, and the International Ballet Festival of Havana, one of the oldest in the New World.

Baroque facade of the building is adorned with a stone and marble statues.

It facilities include theatres, a concert hall, conference rooms, and a video screening room, as well as an art gallery, a choral centre, and several rehearsal halls for dance companies.

Here is my picture of the rehearsel hall that we saw .  Wide open windows, dancers personal things hanging on the wall.   Very warm/hot room.   I wondered, would an American ballerina accept these conditions?

 

 

Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Art Deco National Hotel.

 

Parque Central - Across the street from the Capitol and the hotel. 

and Esquina caliente where baseball fans debate their sport.

Statue of Jose Marti  1853 - 1895.  Cuban national hero. 

Poet, essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher,

translator, professor, publisher, Freemason, political theorist. A key figure in the Cuban War of Independence against Spain.   

This is Arturo (our guide) with Harold:

 
 

Plaza de Armas

The square has existed since 1582 - the official center of the ancient city

The seat of authority and power in Cuba for 400 years.

Statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes  1819 - 1874
In 1868 he freed his slaves and invited them to join him in war against the Spanish government of Cuba.
It started the Ten Years' War.


Spanish troops killed him and the war ended in 1878 with no independence.

Statue of Simon Bolivar

The Great Liberator

Statue is located at Mercaderes and Obrapia

 
A

Another Plaza in Old Havana:

Havana Plaza Vieja

Founded by the Spanish in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana.

A stopping point for the treasure-laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World.

It was one of the main shipbuilding centers

Arturo and Harold review the ruins

   

This how Plaza Vieja looks seven years later in 2007. Photo by Brian Snelson - http://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/495266522/

Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partegas - oldest cigar factory

 

 

 

Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas. One of the oldest cigar factories.  Founded 1845. 400 workers.  They earn about $5 a month.

If you study 9 months to learn how to roll one type of cigar, and you pass the test, you can earn $20 - $40 USD a month.

 

 

 

400 workers.  They earn about $5 a month.

If you study 9 months to learn how to roll one type of cigar, and you pass the test, you can earn $20 - $40 USD a month. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night we went to a performance in the theater

 

Saturday December 2  Cemetery, Hemingway House, Port, Fort

 

Museo Hemingway  9-4 Mon-Sat, 9-12:30 Sun

 

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899 - 1961) was an American writer and journalist. 

He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and his career peaked in 1954 when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  His pain and suffering pain from the African accidents, kept him from traveling to Stockholm to accept the prize, so he sent a speech defining his life instead:

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

His books include

The Sun Also Rises (1927)

A Farewell to Arms (1929)

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

The Old Man and the Sea (1951) won Pulitzer Prize

True at First Light (1999)

Hemingway had permanent residences in Key West, Florida, and Cuba during the 1930s and '40s. 

In 1959 he moved from Cuba to Idaho, where he committed suicide in 1961.

These are MY PICTURES:

 

MY PICTURES
<--- Hemingway house in Key West, Florida

         Hemingway house in Havana, Cuba



Harold and Arturo inside the house in Havana

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Arturo knew the guides, so they let us go inside the house!

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In 1939, Hemingway crossed to Cuba in this boat


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6-toed cat graves


Hotel Ambos Mundos where Hemingway lived in room 511 and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls

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Hotel Ambos Mundos
 at Obispo No 153
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Castro and Hemingway (showing off hunting trophies with his swashbuckling friend?

The Russian Embassy and Government watch towers

Then we visited the port:  Marina Hemingway

If you want to go Deep Sea fishing, you leave from Marina Hemingway.

Marlin office next to Papa's Restaurant.   4 hours cost is $150.

 

  

 

 

 

Cemetery (Necropolis Cristobal Colon)

A cemetery and open air museum.

The cemetery was built in 1876 and has nearly one million tombs - One million people buried here. 

It is one of the most famous cemeteries in Latin America, known for its beauty and magnificence.

Some of the gravestones are decorated with the works of sculptors of the calibre of Ramos Blancos, among others.

Romanesque northern gateway.

 

 

Monument to the firefighters (1890) >>>>











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Tomb of independence leader General Maximi Gomez (1905)

 

 

 

Familia Falla Bonet mausoleum (1886).

 

Tomb of Senora Amelia Goyri. She died while giving birth on May 3, 1901. 

Marble figure of a woman holding a large cross with the baby in her arms.  When the body was exumed, the baby was in her arms.  

Senora Amelia is the focus of a miraculous cult, and its followers never turn their backs on her.

 

Tomb of Orthodox Party leader Eduardo Chibas 

During the 40's and 50's Chibas was relentless crusader against the political corruption of his time.

As a personal protest he committed suicide during a radio broadcast in the 1951. 

At his burial ceremony, a young Orthodox activist named Fidel Castro

jumped on top of Chibas grave, and made a fiery speech denouncing the old establishment.

It was the political debut of the most influential Cuban of the 20th century.

 

 

 

Military graves






Grave of Arturo's first  wife

 

 

The PAUPER graves.

After one year in 4' box, the remains are moved to the smaller boxes (about 18 inches?)
and tucked away.  Another body is placed in the larger box.




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The Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana

The most impressive fortress from colonial times, particularly its walls.

La Cabana was constructed at the same time as the other forstress

 (Castillo do los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro) at the end of the 18th century.

18th century fortress complex, the biggest in the Americas, located on the elevated eastern side of the harbor entrance in Havana, Cuba.

Construction  1763 -1774

by King Carlos III of Spain, the controlling colonial power of Cuba, following the recent capture of Havana by British forces (an exchange was soon made to give Cuba back to the Spanish in exchange for Florida).

La Cabana was the largest colonial military installation in the New World by the time it was completed in 1774, at great expenses to Spain; so much the King proclaimed it should be visible from Spain having cost so much and take so long to be finished.

The fortress served as both a military base and prison over the next two hundred years for both Spain and an independent Cuba.

La Cabana was used as a military prison during the Batista regime.

 

 

In January 1959, rebels led by Che Guevara captured La Cabana and used it as a headquarters and as a military prison for several months while leading the Cuban revolution.

 

During his five-month tenure in that post (January 2 through June 12, 1959), Guevara oversaw the revolutionary tribunals and executions of suspected war criminals, traitors, chivatos (informants), and former members of Batista's secret police. The complex is now part of a historical park, along with El Morro, and houses several museums open to the public. From there, every night a cannon shoot rumbles, so called "El Canazo de las 9", a custom, kept from colonial times, signaling the closure of the city wall doors.

 

 

 

Cannon ceremony @ the Cabana Fortress at 8:30 pm

 

Sunday December 3, Car Tour, Lennon / Lenin, Tropicana

 

REVOLUTION SQUARE in Havana

 

Approaching the square: NO TRAFFIC, NO CARS, NOTHING. No revoluton here.

 

 

In the square. This is my picture.

 

Stop the car.  I get out of the car. I'm in the square.  It's just me. This is December,  2000.

 

 

I visited in 2010. This is one year earlier in 2009. It was a very different story. This is the same REVOLUTION SQUARE.

This picture is over half a million Cubans gathered for a "Peace without Borders" concert on 2009 September 20.

 

 

The face on the side of the building is Ernesto  Guevara  (1928 - 1967)  Commonly known as El Che or simply "Che".

An Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat, military theorist, and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture.

He was a determined Marxist and a heroic guerrilla willing to confront the most powerful forces of imperializm without any thought for personal safety or profit.

 

Che traveled to Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the successful two year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, instituting agrarian reform as minister of industries, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba's armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism.

 

Such positions allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing to Cuba the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful motorcycle journey across South America. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to incite revolutions, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.

Guevara remains both a revered and reviled historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was declared "the most famous photograph in the world."

Reuters/Desmond Boylan photo: Casto, Jose Marti, Che

The spot where Fidel proclaimed the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution on April 16, 1961.


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The Havana city wall

 

 

A fragment of the former city wall.




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Lunch at a Paladar.  4 USD for a lot of food!

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The Lennon / Lenin Story

OK, this is a story.  I had done some research on things that I wanted to see in Havana.  I told Arturo I wanted to see the statue of Lenin. 

So he takes us to Parque John Lennon where a bronze statue of John Lennon is sitting on a bench.  Oops, WRONG LENIN!!!!! 

I told him I wanted to see "Vladimir" Lenin, not "John" Lennon! That was a bit of a drive, we got stopped and rerouted by authorities, but we got to Parque Lenin. 

Parque Lennon (as in "John")

From

http://weburbanist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/lennon_5a.jpg

 

 The Story of the John Lennon Statue in Havana, Cuba: How Fidel Castro Finally Caught Beatlemania

http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/01/10/the_story_of_the_john_lennon_statue_in_havana_cuba.html

  By Ella Morton    Photos: Carlos Montoya and Gerry Zambonini 

February marks 50 years since The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, igniting a global phenomenon. But when Beatlemania swept the world, communist Cuba resisted. Believing the Fab Four were the epitome of mindless, vulgar consumerism, Fidel Castro declared a nationwide ban of Beatles music in 1964.
Cubans eager to experience the rock-and-roll revolution resorted to trading smuggled tapes of "I Want To Hold Your Hand."Almost four decades later, with "All You Need Is Love" playing in the background, Castro unveiled a bronze statue of John Lennon in a Havana park. At the ceremony, held on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon's 1980 murder, Castro spoke of his respect for the former Beatle.
"What makes him great in my eyes is his thinking, his ideas," he said. "I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality."
Castro's change of tune resulted from re-imagining Lennon as political dissident hounded by the U.S. government. In the dictator's eyes, Lennon was no longer a symbol of the decadent West, but a revolutionary dedicated to emancipating the working class. That conveniently made him a posthumous ally of Cuba ‚ hence the need for a life-sized bronze statue and an accompanying open-air concert of Lennon's music.
The statue, which captures Lennon in his long-haired, anti-war activism years, sits on a bench in John Lennon Park. Its iconic circular-rimmed glasses have been stolen so often that a guard now stands nearby holding them, poised to place them on the statue's face when visitors approach.
On one of the benches of the park, nearer the corner of streets 17th and 6th, there is a sculpture of the former Beatles member John Lennon, sculpted by Cuban artist Jos’‚ Villa Sober, seated on the bench's right end. On a marble tile at the foot of the bench there is an inscription reading: "Dir’‚¡s que soy un so’‚ador pero no soy el ‚nico" John Lennon, which is a Spanish translation of the English lyrics, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," from the song "Imagine".
The sculpture of Lennon is currently not wearing his signature round-lens glasses, which have been stolen, or vandalized, several times. However, during the day, a security guard can be found sitting next to the bench, and he will place glasses on the statue if there is a request.
The statue was unveiled on 8 December 2000, the 20th anniversary of Lennon's murder. One year later, Cuban author Ernesto Juan Castellanos wrote a book about the statue, John Lennon en La Habana with a little help from my friends, and about the ban that John Lennon and The Beatles suffered in Cuba during the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Parque Lenin (as in "Vladimir")

Approximately 15 miles (25 km) south of Havana. 


Arturo was not really happy about taking us to this place. It was a bit of a drive.  At one point we had to stop the car at a checkpoint and the police rerouted us to our destination. We got there and we were the only car in the parking lot. 


The park was inaugurated on April 22, 1972 by Fidel Castro

From  http://www.lahabana.com/guide/parque-lenin/   Parque Lenin, where nature, culture and relaxation meet, is a great place to go for a picnic. Visiting it will take most of your day as you enjoy the park's many attractions, which include an amusement park with one of Cuba's few roller coasters, horseback riding, steam train, zoo, aquarium, pools and various restaurants. 
The Rodeo Nacional, an arena where some of Cuba's best rodeos take place is laso within the park's grounds. At the entrance to the left, there is a small model airplane field that holds exhibitions every Sunday.
Bear in mind that it is somewhat run down; the train is not working; the aquarium has just a few fish and the amphitheatre's seats are overgrown with grass and the stage is just a large piece of rusty iron. Las Ruinas is the only restaurant and it is not what it used to be.

The only thing that has been very recently refurbished (reopened in 2009) is the amusement park, which is worth the visit. The equestrian centre is still working but the horses belong to private individuals from around. There is really no set price. You have to bargain with them.
What to do here - Rent a rowboat and cross the lake  ....  See the giant statue of Vladimir Ilitsj Lenin...... Galeria de Arte Amelia Pelaez  ...  The Amphitheater and the Aquarium with crocodiles and fishes.


The huge bust of Lenin, carved in 1982 by Soviet sculptor L E Kerbel, is a focal point.

The "rugged beauty of the white marble piece captures your gaze. "  Yes it did that to me.

I'm not sure what it is about Communist countries. I've been to every one in the world except for North Korea.

 

 

 

 

My comments: Seriously Run down, seriously. Those are STONE seats in the picture below!  Can you imagine the effort that went into constructing an Ampitheater with stone seats. It overlooks this body of water. That island is a little Aquarium with crocodiles and "fishes". 

 

 

Harold with our excellent tour guides: Arturo and his wife, Wilma

Harold invited them to go to the Tropicana show with us that night....

 

The Tropicana

That night Arturo arranged for Harold and I to go to the Tropicana show at the Hotel Copacabana (at Miramar 42/44)
That was quite an evening.  I'm writing this seventeen years after the fact, and now I finally understand and appreciate Harold's generosity.  Harold invited Arturo and Wilma to the Tropicana show. He absolutely insisted that they join us.  It was quite an ordeal of an invite.  The cost was $60 USD per person. Harold pulled the cash out of his money belt proving he would pay for their tickets.  I was sitting in the back seat, and uncomfortable with the invitation, and a little embarrassed. Money being flaunted.  But that is Harold.  Gotta love him. 
Arturo and his wife joined us at the show.  A bottle of rum for each person is included.  Arturo was sauced, and I was not happy about him driving us back to the hotel.  Again, gotta love Harold.  He convinced me it would be fine and he convinced Arturo to drive along the Malceon.  I see why Arturo did not want to got that route. A night, the waves splash over the entire road. The car was soaked. Not good for an already rusting 60's era VW bug.  I hope they gave it a good washing when they got home to get the salt spray and water off.
About The Tropicana:
The Tropicana, is a world-known cabaret and club in Havana, Cuba.
It was launched in 1939 at Villa Mina, a six-acre suburban estate with lush tropical gardens in Havana's Marianao neighborhood.  The spectacular showplace that became The Tropicana evolved out of a Depression-era bohemian nightclub , operated by Cuban impresario Victor de Correa.   Its popularity with tourists grew steadily until the entry of the USA into World War II, which sharply curtailed tourism to Cuba.
 The showgirls are known collectively as "Las Diosas de Carne" (or "Flesh Goddesses"), Renowned the world over for their voluptuousness

The cabaret showcased a kind of sequin-and-feather musical theater that would be copied in Paris, New York, and Las Vegas.

It was a "Paradise Under the Stars", the Tropicana became known for its showgirls, conga sounds, domino tournaments and flashy, spectacular productions.

The Tropicana continues to operate now, attracting tourists to its Cabaret Shows taking place at 9pm, Tuesday to Sunday, in the open-air Salon Bajo Las Estrellas (weather permitting).  

In 2012, ticket prices were CUC 70, 80 and 90, each including 0.25 liters of rum and various combinations of drinks and snacks. Taxi fare is about 15 CUC from the city center (El Capitolio area).

 

 

Monday December 4  Museum

We did not arrange anything with our tour guide Arturo this morning because I wanted to go see this museum.   At the entrance to our hotel, we asked a transport to take us to the museum.  No taxi drivers would agree to take us.  He pointed down the block and indicated that we had to walk.  Harold had to stop a couple times to rest, but realized how close the museum was located. That is why the taxi wouldn't take us. 

The museum was very interesting and definitely worth taking a couple hours to see.   So here is another good story:  When I was buying my ticket to see the musumm I asked if there was an elevator to get to the second floor.  The girl pretended like she didn't understand me, so I deduced that there wasn't an elevator so Harold could not see the primary exhibits of the musuem. He agreed to wait for me to see the exhibits and he would stay on the first floor.   I found out that "elevator" was the same word in spanish, but you say it with an accent.  The stupid girl  was making me feel stupid becuase I did not pronounce the word "elevator" with an accent.  That's a shame. It was a great museum. I wish Harold could have taken the elevator to the second floor to see it.

 

Museo de la Revolucion (The Museum of the Revolution)

The building has Neo-Classical elements, and was decorated by Tiffany & Co. of New York.  It is a very beautiful building.

It was the the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents until 1959. 

 

 

In the years following the Cuban revolution  It became a museum displaying and documents outline Cuba's history from the beginning of the neo-colonial period. The building c ombines Spanish, French and German architectural elements. The building was the site of an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Batista in March 1957. Contains a complete documentary and pictures of the Cuban Revolution.

 

  

Pavillon Granma - This one of the holiest shrines of Cuban communism.

It is an 18m motor vessel Granma that carried Fidel Castro and 81 others from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.  It is behind the musuem.

 

SAU-100 tank used by Fidel Castro during the 1961 Battle of the Bay of Pigs. 

 

 

 

 

Pasei de Marti (1770) is a long promenade from the city to the water.

 

Children playing on the Pasei de Marti

 

Lions, added in 1928, to mark the entrance to the Pasei de Marti promoenade.

 

 

 

 

Getting around

 

 

 

A Cuban-made "Camel" bus

 

 

 

 

 

Various pix around town

 

 

 

 

 

We drove by the beach / resort area at Playas Del Este. 

 

Here are our wonderful host and guide Wilma and Arturo.

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Tuesday December 5 Travel home

 

Today we had a 7:00 AM flight on Aerocaribe from Havana to Cancun.

 

When we got to Cancun, we went directly to the Hilton.  What luxurious sight to behold. 

A great place to unwind after a hectic time in Cuba.

 

 

 

I flew from Cancun to Houston to Atlanta (arriving at 12:37a on Wed Dec 6.

Harold flew from Cancun to Houston to Tulsa arriving at 10:09p.

Whew. Home.

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting: 

 

About Banks, per Arturo:

The more money you have in the bank, the lower interest rate you may get.

The bank will acknowledge that you have the money, but they may inform you that you cannot have access to it until x years later.

 

 

 

About Stalin per Arturo: "The sun shines and you can block part of it with your hand."

Arturo really likes Che Gevera. He would not give an opinion about Castro.

Wilma and he are going to divide their apt to rent a place for foreigners as $30 to $40 a night.  Hmmm. I think I will pass.  I smelled gas.

They pay about $2 per month for rent.  At the new place you pay $2  a month for 0 years and then you own it.

Milk is $1.65 a gallon. Big lunch was $4.50, beer $1. Mojito drink $25.0.

In general, the people are [adjective] happy  beligerent  unknowingly  they don't know any better. They are in the dark.

Arturo "I can leave any time"  He played basketball in Czech and Germany.  He taught in Angola? For 22 months.

Arturito has a masters in Economics.

Restaurant tries to get us to order what they want you to order. Because of lack of groceries. No bread for his sandwich, so he didn't order a sandwich.

Money in the bank. The more money that you have in the bank, the lower the interest rate that you earn.

If you have 10,000 pesos, the government one day may say have have 5,000. The Government can freeze access to money at any time.

Communism - everyone is equal.

 

An architect in Cuba makes $17 US a  month.  Design engineer $22 a  month

 

The average Cuban earns no more than $10 to $15 a month.  

Low wages have turned the country into a nation of beggars.

Cuban monthly pensions are less than the $3.20 a carton of American eggs cost here.

 

More than $1 billion flows each year from Cuban-American communities into the hand of relative and friend on the island who cannot eke out a living on their salaries alone.

Following the ruin of the sugar can industry, Castro vigorously promoted tourism, Cuba's top industry these days.

But ordinary Cubans cannot enjoy the plush hotelds, resort and service reserved solely for foreigners.

I feels like We Cubans are treated like third-class citizens in our own land.

 

Waves pound El Malecon, a seawall and roadway in Havana, Cuba on March 22nd, 2009. Original here. (Neiljs / CC BY-SA) #

 

More pix at:   http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/11/scenes_from_havana.html

 

Harold was such a fun, interesting person to travel with.  He's generally very positive, given all his circumstances.  He's been through alot in life: Oklahoma dust bowls, Selling moonshine during the depression, he was on the Sheffield Steel National negotiating committee.  I think he drank a couple bottle of Scotch when we were there.   That does not bother me - a co-worker who has been to Cuba four times now has figured out that Cuba waters-down their liquor. So a full bottle of Scotch from Cuba is like half a bottle of American Scotch.  Harold was a trooper. Even when he was uncomfortable (in pain), he forged ahead... What a great trip.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution May 4, 2005

 

Cubans have mixed feelings on pamphlets dropped by U.S.

The United States has been quietly waging a new war on information on Cuba, trying to promote democracy by dropping hundreds of thousands of leaflets in the front yards of Cuban residents across the island. The Mystery pamphlets arrive in the middle of the night on people's lawns and have become the subject of both curiosity and derision among Cubans. One recent leaflet included the text of President Bush's State of the Union speech; another features the U. N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some people think that irritating Cuban President Fidel Castro is reason enough to distribute the pamphlets; others fear that the state security apparatus is closely watching to see who's interest in them. And some resent the interference. "I'm against these pamphlets," seaman Juan Dominguez told the Chicago Tribune. "There is no reason for the United Statues to be involved in our affairs. We are a free country. We don't go to the Unites States and hand out information." Nevertheless, the campaign has been a heartening sign for some. "There are a lot of things that are not going well, " said Emilie Roja, who said he's a former political prisoner.

 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution Jan 3, 2016 article by Nick Miroff

The largest public housing project in Cuba is Alamar, with 100,000 residents.  It is Cuba's most equal place, because everyone pretty much has an identical apartment.

They achieved their goal and provided housing, and created a place of equality for the socialist society.  It was a model city... 40 years ago, but..

The country's ideological foundations are cracking, and a new uncertainties are coming... there are rising inequalities  .... [leading to] the breakdown of Cub's socialist welfare state.

Three quarters of the labor force works for the state.  Average government salary is $20 a month.

After 25 years of economic austerity, a collective exhaustion has set in, the toll of steady emigration, corruption, and knowing from globalization influences, that Cubans live better in almost any other country than their own.

Fidel is 89, and current President Raul Castro is 84

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (1776)

Palacio del Segeundo Cabo (1772).  It was the Supreme Court, now it is the Cubano del Libro

Museo de la Ciudad 

Sports City 

Catedral de San Cristobal- Baroque facade with 2 unequal towers

Palacio di los Capitanes on the west side of Plaza de Armas. One of Cuba's most majestic buildings. Model railway.

Arturo invited us to dinner Monday night, but  I wanted to be in bed by 8.They ended up working late anyway.

Note for Harold with code from Arturo.

 

 

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pix at:   http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/11/scenes_from_havana.html

Collected here are recent photos from in and around Havana, Cuba. (35 photos total)

 

 In 2009:   Havana, the capital city of the island nation of Cuba

Population 4 million people - 20% of the entire population of Cuba.

 

founded by the Spanish in 1519

Havana is the seat of the state-run (faltering) economy

President Raul Castro has even gone so far as to warn Cubans that their socialist system must change - and to invite (limited) criticism of the state (Boston.com News Stories in photographs)

Cuba's economic woes are compounded by the 50-year-old trade embargo imposed by the United States, a practice recently condemned (again) by the United Nations with a vote of 187-3.  

 

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