Sunday, January 3, 2016

a walk on the Prado

So after our handicraft market visit we headed back towards the hotel but the bus stopped at the foot of the Prado and we walked about a mile back to the hotel.  The Prado divides Habana Vieja from Central Havana (where regular folks live and it hasn't been much renovated - Phil and I went there with our bici-taxi driver when we had time on our own to explore- so more on that later.)

I am going to just post and comment along the way - but what you see on the facade is not always what you get in the interior... the facades are being restored but living conditions inside may not be. Inhabited buildings fall down with alarming regularity and when they do "a new hotel is built" because tourism brings in hard currency and this is what the Cuban economy desperately needs. They can make deals with other countries for economic development (like China and Korea) but when they can't pay for the goods they ordered then the goods stop coming.

and I apologize before hand for some of these being out of focus- I took photos of vehicles as they went by and the motion created less than optimal results- however - these photos are for edification and they serve that purpose despite not being very artistic...LOL

first a view along the Prado towards the capitol building

one of the first buildings we stop in front of shows vestiges of a blue facade and incredibly beautiful architectural details and is moderately decent shape from the outside but look a bit closer-

a deco building that is on the next block fares a bit better but of course it is newer and not designed for residential so it probably hasn't been used in the same manner (divided, subdivided and subdivided again etc..)

when the revolutionary government took over in 1959, housing became a strange netherworld- there was ownership but no right to buy or sell - so people traded based upon needs.  For instance a grandma who didn't need her large home could trade a growing family for their smaller place and get a monthly stipend from them in the exchange.  The strange policies over ownership and sale along with the vast population growth of the city created unusual housing modifications.  Additional stories were added on rooftops in squatter like quarters and sometimes they added stories in between stories that already existed - in other words a 16 foot ceiling became 2 eight foot ceiling units within the space... all very creative - have I mentioned that every Cuban's middle name is Creativity? I think I have...(a side note- the Cubans got the right to sell their property and to buy from someone else right around the time of my last visit in very early 2012 and this has been one of the biggest changes since that visit.  They are learning about how to do this- and I will address this more specifically in a post about a family visit in Trinidad's UNESCO protected old town center.)

The way along the Prado has the full range of buildings from completely dilapidated to fully restored and everywhere in between- and people live in pretty much all of them - when there are four walls and a roof- it is likely to be inhabited...

on one side (the Old Havana side) the buildings look generally a bit better but not always- on the Central Havana side things - especially off the Prado look less upscale and definitely more deteriorated- along with being more densely populated-

old side-

new side-

you can see how things have been subdivided by the makeshift barriers on what were once spacious balconies-

as I mentioned buildings collapse (and people get killed) due to the state of disrepair in many of these old buildings-

an example of roof top addition - this one is now a paladar I believe- with both the middle and top floor in use-

the above photo- enlarged below is a good example of some of the things I am trying to show about the way things are-

careful review of the photo below shows the situation of one story made into two - check the middle and right door ways- the middle one has a joist that shows the division and in the right one you can see the new ceiling height through the open door-

here is a sequence of photos of one building which is barely there (and not lived in) and yet still details of its beauty still exist-   first one - it is barely more than a facade-

but the "bones" once were strong- look at the brick arches still standing despite more than a half century of neglect...

 in this sequence the detail can be clearly seen-

here I point out the area I want to focus in on-

and see- the amazingly - still extant- columns on the facade have not - despite tropical climate crumbled away to nothing-

some modes of transportation seen along the walk up the Prado-


pink cars! LOL

coco taxis

gangsta cars-

here is a sequence that caught my eye- a guy near the capitol building hails a taxi and gets in with his precious cargo-

and here are a few final shots of the walk - a completely NEW hotel (on the site of a collapsed building) and some graffiti that caught my eye and a restaurant bar facade that I found appealing enough to photograph along with a group of old cars across from the capitol building awaiting tourists with money for a "joy-ride" LOL

and while the hotel is "nice enough" and in the vernacular of the old town - it lacks the "heart" of the older buildings when renovation includes original elements.

we get back to the hotel and have a quick turn around time so we can head out to a more remote area of the city - a fantastic evening of art and song and dance that will remain among the highlights of the trip- and just to give you a tiny taste - so you will come back for the next post - here is a video snippet...

so come on back - the next post should be very interesting as we make a trip to Muraleando and get to know the Community Arts Center in a Havana barrio...

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