Saturday I decided to make myself a walking tour of Havana, Lamar went off to explore the film festival since he is in TV production and with Gaia maps running I went of to try and never walk the same street twice 🙂
At the world famous, because of Hemingway, Ambos Mundos hotel I found a Taulk tour group having a tour with what sounded like a very interesting person. An architect who works at the Havana old town conservation project (Maybe habaguanex), who then took us into the Maqueta de la Havana, essentially a fully detailed model of the old town.
He then went into some details of the many problems they face. Apparently the project is unique in Cuba and probably the world in that most of their funds come from the tourist tax paid by the hotels and restaurants they own. In other Cuban cities the money goes to central government and then paid out if hey are lucky.
The biggest difficulty they face is that no one ‘owns’ the buildings! The government owns the physical land but after the revolution the state took over the apartments etc (If you didn’t flee you were allowed to keep one city apartment and one country building the rest of your property was taken and essentially given to other folks in exchange for a small amount of money – If you fled you lost the lot!) What this means is that in a block of apartments where upto 20 families are living no one owns the physical outer shell of the building, hence the very poor state of repair.
The project offer to renovate the building for free but they insist that only say 12 families can remain – the others are offered free apartments but not in the old town. So interesting squabbles occur 🙁
The most interesting statement he made which strongly agreed with the opinion I have been forming is that their government has been using the trade embargo as an excuse for the embargo of their mind! No original thinking has been taking place! Like winning the battle and losing the war 🙁
For instance I’ve noticed Nestle have a huge presence here with their freezers in virtually every cafe/store on the island also soft drinks/beer are all marketed in the latest all aluminium cans, which require huge upfront investment. Yet the banks don’t offer normal folks credit for building houses or starting small businesses but a foreigner can offer a slug of money for a special visa and be allowed to buy a building for business. Not good …
Anyway I got thrown off their ‘private’ tour so I continued my meanderings. The scale of renovation is vast eg The Central Station, Capitol building, National Theatre etc etc
Later I saw the end of the first stage of the Titan Tropic GAES Mountain Bike championships all on gleaming highly expensive bikes – but no backup kit! Just an ambulance and a few cars 🙂 They are off to Vinales now.
In the evening to go for a meal I had to run the gauntlet of prostitutes and managed to pick up a stomach bug again 🙁 Over 12 miles walked..