Havana, Definitely a “Wonder City” / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 27 June 2016 — Recently, Havana has been
declared a New7Wonder City of the Modern World, based on the votes of
thousands of people in a contest by the Swiss foundation New7Wonders,
citing its “mythical attraction, the warm and welcoming atmosphere and
the charm and gaiety of its inhabitants.”
Winning the honor, given the palpable deterioration of the city, has
kicked up a bit of scandal with protests from those who believe that
Havana does not deserve such a title because of the amount of trash,
debris, destroyed buildings, potholed streets, and shattered sidewalks
where there are drunk people lying on every corner.
All this, along with economic backwardness and socio-cultural disaster
that has been brought to us by more than half a century of populist
authoritarianism, have not been able to bury the splendor of Havana’s
exquisite and eclectic architecture, from earliest times to the first
half of the twentieth century, the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the
city and the traditionally friendly, attractive and cheerful
characteristics of its population.
No, it has not been possible. Neither abandonment of the capital by the
all-powerful state, occupied with survival, nor so much filth dropped or
thrown on Havana could hide El Morro and La Cabaña, or conceal the
intact Malecón, the Paseo del Prado with its lions, 23rd Street known as
La Rampa, Paseo, G and 5th Avenue with its green areas and benches made
for love, the still fabulous tunnels of Linea and 5th Avenue, or the
entrance of the bay.
No amount of contempt could tarnish the luster and lineage of Central
Park, or the monuments to Marti, Maximo Gomez, Maceo and Jose Miguel
Gomez. Still shining in all their splendor are the Capitol building, the
Government Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts, Aldama Palace and the
Still standing today are the magnificence of the Hotel Nacional, the
Hilton Hotel – now the Habana Libre – the Riviera Hotel, and the
majestic and unsurpassed Focsa building and the Civic Square complex,
just to mention signature buildings, along with the old and historic
The damage so-called “state socialism”has brought us has not been able
to destroy this work, the wonder of Havana remains intact, as does the
welcoming atmosphere offered by the charm of its multi-ethnic population
with their cultural diversity, musical spirit and good cheer.
Havana was and remains a Wonder City thanks to the charm that remains
from the decade of the ‘50s, with the classic and antique cars,
maintained and embellished by popular initiative, which present us with
a city that moves slowly, as if frozen in time; leaving us unclear
whether our future never comes, or we yearn to return to the past. The
greatest charm of the city is its children for whom, despite all the
nonsense and inattention from the unchanging government of the last 57
years, we have done what we could to care for them bring them joy.
The wonder of Havana resisted outright the snub from a government that,
only in recent years, has begun to realize that it is not Varadero but
the City of La Giraldilla* that is Cuba’s greatest attraction, capable
of enticing millions of tourists, and so it has begun to devote some
attention and resources to the restoration of some of the city’s
historic buildings, including the Capitol.
It is worth noting that the historic center of Havana was declared a
World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 and, thereafter, an intense and
reverent restoration work was undertaken by the Office of the Historian
of the City as a self-funded** project, independent of the central
Hopefully, in the future, given the interest of the military and state
monopolies in exploiting the tourism potential of the city, they will
continue the restoration of facades, parks, main streets and sidewalks,
although without the ability to add new wonders of construction to the
traditional splendor of those buildings.
But ignoring of the lesson of the New7Wonder designation, the government
and military remain engaged primarily in promoting golf courses and
housing complexes for millionaires that could produce some money in the
medium term, but which have the effect of diminishing our already
critical sources of drinking water, s, living in overcrowded conditions
and carrying water in buckets, are the thousands of ordinary citizens
who are the ones who continue to provide the most important part of the
wonder that continues to attract tourism from all over the globe.
*A statue of a woman, and a symbol of the city, atop the observation
tower in the former governor’s house.
**That is, relying on donations from overseas.
Source: Havana, Definitely a “Wonder City” / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos –
Translating Cuba –