View of Havana from El Morro, March 2002


The images here were taken in March 2002 during the course of a week-long study trip to Havana, Cuba. It is truly a magnificent city, with an array of architecture that ranges over five centuries, in spite of the nation's relative poverty in recent years. Especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the country of a huge measure of economic support, large sections of the city have been left in a near-ruinous condition, so bad that buildings routinely collapse whenever there is a storm. Yet the government has been able to launch an ambitious program of restoration and rehabilitation of Habana Vieja, the old city, which is a World Heritage Site and a huge tourist draw. With a hotel tax that goes directly to the coffers of the City Historian, who directs the program, some of the most beautiful restoration that I have ever seen is underway. Along with that, investment by Spain, Canada, Belgium and other countries more progressive than our own is allowing development of modern hotels and other facilities within the context of the historic city.

As yet, it is a city devoid of commercial billboards and one of the few places on the planet left untouched by American fast-food restaurants, making it one of the great wonders of the modern world for that reason alone. Most retail trade is done the old-fashioned way, with a clerk handing you stuff over the counter, like a few stores that I remember were still doing business that way in this country in the 1950s. Most stores were dreadfully bare of a lot of the stuff we take for granted, thanks in no small part to the ill-considered US embargo. That paucity of goods, like most of our perceptions of Communist Cuba, is the result of what has been a powerful lobby of Cuban exiles, most of whom were the rich Cubans who fled after the Revolution in 1959. For many of the poorer (and darker) Cubans that stayed behind, Castro remains a hero—reminding me that propaganda works both ways.

I took far too few photographs, but I have never liked having a camera as a constant intermediary, so a lot did not get recorded in that way, including dinners at some of the many paladares in the city, which was always an experience. On one occasion, the proprietors were totally unprepared for a party of twelve (although I don't think it would have been much different with a party of two), and we waited patiently the better part of an hour while they gathered the food, which was clearly not yet on the premises. On another occasion, we found La Guarida, the paladar (image at left) that was the setting for the film "Strawberry and Chocolate" in Havana Central, an ancient courtyard town house, now cut up into many apartments, where the atmosphere was magic and the food the best.

The city grew from the original grid of streets along the bay, so Havana Vieja is at left in the panorama above, beyond the narrow entrance into the harbor, guarded by El Morro, La Fortaleza, and the other colonial-era forts on either side of the channel. The center of the image shows Havana Central and the parts of the city that developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries after the city walls were demolished. Away to the right, out El Malecón are Vedado, Miramar, and the newer parts of the city, with some of the best-preserved architecture from the post-WWII era that exists anywhere.

Las Escuelas de Arte


Los Automóviles

Los Fuertes


El Malecón

La Revolución


Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón

La Habana Vieja

Vedado y Miramar


Las Murallas

Preservación Histórica