The architecture in Havana, Cuba, makes you say ah, and brings tears to your eyes, all in the same moment.
It is said that Havana is a city that is stuck in time. The architecture in Havana is there to prove it. Walking through Old Havana, there is a unique blend of centuries of architecture – colonial Spanish buildings from the 1600s, baroque influences in the 1700s, Neo-Classical in the 1800s, and Art Deco in the early 1900s.[box]
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They all have one thing in common – they are stuck in time, generally in a state of disrepair since mid-century. Although some private enterprise and joint ventures have started to creep through the hard exterior of the architecture in Havana, providing a fresh coat of paint and more safe interiors, most of the city just feels derelict.
In general, the city exudes a level of decrepitness that is not seen in most places. In Sarajevo, and more so in Mostar, Bosnia, we saw cities destroyed by a modern war. In Havana, there was no war – just a society that was unable to improve and maintain its surroundings due to the political circumstances. The architecture in Havana suffered, as well as the population as a whole.
When walking down the Malecon, the picturesque sea front drive, I imagined what the city would look like with more investment. Now, it looks like a post-apocalyptic Miami. A city with beautiful architecture with water front property, which is decrepit, crumbling, and often abandoned. Many of the buildings show no sign of life – at least no one should be living in them. But, they are filled with potential. They could offer an amazing, and uninterrupted vista on the ocean. A development potential unrivaled in most of the world.
The government is sponsoring a rehabilitation of the Malecon, and other architecture in Havana. I imagine a future where current residents, to the extent there are any, are pushed out in a gentrification to the extreme. I also imagine a future where international investors, Cuban exiles, and hotel chains, clamor to get the best property locations, particularly as Cuba opens more to travel. I only hope that future reconstruction is completed in a thoughtful way – with an intent to preserve the amazing potential and history of this unique city.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.