18th Century Mansion – Forgotten but Not Gone / Camilo Ernesto Olivera
Posted on March 19, 2014
HAVANA, Cuba. – The walls have stood for nearly 270 years. But the
degree of deterioration in the old house is worrying. Wood and tile
ceilings on the second floor have been collapsing, not only because of
the climate, but also from neglect. Roots from shrubbery and prickly
pears crisscross those interior walls that are exposed to the outside.
The exterior walls are cracked. Several families still live on the
ground floor of the building.
The Casa de las Cadenas also gives its name to one of the oldest streets
in Guanabacoa. Some time ago the local historian, Pedro Guerra, said
that it is one of the most important historical buildings in the western
part of the island. Built in the early eighteenth century, it was the
first two-story house in town.
It is located in the heart of the designated Historic Center of
Guanabacoa. It has been recognized by the government’s National
Monuments Commission. According to oral tradition, documented by Elpidio
de la Guardia, in his History of Guanabacoa:
Religious images were sheltered there by the Parish Mayor following a
severe storm that destroyed the town in 1730. Masses were officiated
there during that time. In return, the owner of the house was accredited
by King Philip V of Spain to grant asylum to fugitives from justice.
Only two other buildings throughout the Spanish Empire had this prerogative.
As happened with other structures in the oldest part of the capital
during the last century, the Casa de las Cadenas was converted to a
rooming house. In 2009, Nilda Maria Peralta, the last tenant on the
second floor of the building, who was later evacuated, lamented about
the apathy of the authorities regarding the plight of the place:
“There are nights I don’t sleep, worried because there could be another
collapse and I’m alone up here. What is sadder is that nobody cares.”
Five years later, the deterioration continues:
“Most of us who live here have neither the expertise nor the financial
resources to repair a historic building like this; that’s up to the
government,” one of the tenants told this reporter.
A local man, with a mixture of irony and bitterness said:
“Hopefully resources will appear and they will ’grab’ them to restore it
soon, because when this house says ’I’m going down,’ there will be
deaths . . . What’s holding it up is the same miracle that kept it from
being destroyed by that hurricane that came through during the Spanish
Another man, who had been silent, said:
“But what can you expect from a government that doesn’t even maintain
its city hall?”
He was referring to the nearby old mayor’s palace, which now belongs to
the People’s Power. The property is showing obvious signs of deterioration.
The photos that accompany this text corroborate the sad state of the
Casa de las Cadenas, that historic symbol of the once beautiful
Guanabacoa, which is about to completely collapse under the weight of
time and neglect.
Cubanet, March 5, 2014. Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro
Source: 18th Century Mansion – Forgotten but Not Gone / Camilo Ernesto
Olivera Peidro | Translating Cuba –