LIGHTING UP HAVANA: so is Obama coming?
The present transformation of Havana’s Old Town is breathtaking by anyone’s standards. Hotels, shops, bars and cafes are springing up all over, not to mention dozens of newly-renovated houses and apartments for rent. Few anticipated the pace or extent of all of this but those who did are in the pink. Business is booming and Cuba is awaiting a veritable tsunami of mainly American tourism.
But this last weekend was something else. I watched – open-mouthed- as a huge swathe of historic, Central /Old Havana road was cordoned off, ploughed up and opened out: as five huge Royal palms were planted and shored up (with holes for 5 more) and as the movement of traffic – and, thus, both tourists and the general population – ground to a halt in the resulting chaos.
Rush and rumours abound
All this is going on by Parque Central, the newly restored Hotel Inglaterra and the Grand Teatro Alicia Alonso, then on to the imposing Capitolio building. The latter is rather strangely (or not) modelled on the White House. It was built by the US (1926) during their control of the island (-1959) and is soon to be the Cuban Government’s new HQ.
Habaneros are wondering just what’s going on. Rumours abound. Is the area going to be a pedestrian-only boulevard – like Barcelona? (They hope so). Does this herald the imminent re-opening of the Capitolio – closed years ago for major renovation? (They hope so too; it’s looking very lovely). Or is it – by far the strongest rumour (bola) – that it’s all of those things plus…that President Obama is coming next month.
You heard it here first…
With Obama on his way to visit and an influx of American tourists, find out what locals had to say as the first US cruise ship arrived in Cuba.