Havana, Decrepit Elegance

Havana, Decrepit Elegance.  Havana is a dynamic and living Caribbean city of two million souls.  Havana was a thriving city during the first half of the 20th century.  There were very close ties between the United States and Cuba which resulted in a strong economy and frequent visits of US citizens to what became a Caribbean “Las Vegas” with sunny beaches.  This all changed when President Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959.


In 1960, relations soured significantly between the US and Cuba and a trade embargo was enacted.  Cuba became economically crippled for decades under ineffective Cuban regime economic strategy in conjunction with the embargo.

Havana, Decrepit Elegance

For over 55 years, Havana has been frozen in time.  American cars from the 1950s zoom down the 8 km long Malecón.  Buildings are decrepit.  Dilapidated.  Crumbling facades seemingly unpainted since 1959 dot every street.

Havana, Decrepit Elegance

To walk through Havana feels like being in an open-air museum.  I can imagine there is an incredible desire for the locals to update and renovate their homes, their city.  Yet, my fear, is the magic of this capital might dissipate.  With the US embargo soon to be lifted, there is a potential tidal wave of money and people that may drown the city.  With poor planning and governance, Havana may be carelessly gentrified.  Let’s hope the Cuban people are able to protect this unique landmark.

havana car

Havana, Decrepit Elegance.  Check out the revolution in Havana.

Havana, Decrepit Elegance Havana, Decrepit Elegance Havana, Decrepit Elegance Havana, Decrepit Elegance havana

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4 thoughts on “Havana, Decrepit Elegance

  1. Frank

    Great photos Ric. Actually, the government in Cuba worked hand in hand with American gangsters and regular Cubans never benefited and the money flying around was from drugs, prostitution and gambling. The Bastista government was corrupt and used torture and killing to maintain control while at the same time receiving financial and military aid from the US. That led to the overthrow and Castro coming in power.
    I agree with you and hope that Havana rebuilds while retaining its soul, I always say that Havana is a living museum the same as Venice is…
    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      I am aware of the very corrupt Batista government and the mafia’ role in the government. I believe the Castro regime devastated the economy over the past 55 years. In the early 90s, for instance, the GDP contracted over 35% in a several year period. I stayed with a family, with a university graduate, who earned $15 a month as an architect. Not at all a living wage.

      Check out these two great books on Cuba … one on the Barcadi family, and what happened to private enterprise … Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba … and for the mafia … Havana Nocturne.

  2. Frank

    Definitely agree with you on the economy – but how much of that had to do with sanctions imposed by the US? And then the Soviet Union going bust?

    Cubans are some of the most educated people anywhere, given open markets I think Cuba will achieve great things. Will be interesting to watch.


    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Agreed, both the embargo and the Soviet Union’s collapse had a lot to do with it. If you read the book about the Barcardi family, you will also see how there is a total disconnect on the realities of how business and the economy works by the Cuban government which had a significant contribution to the nation’s economic health.

      I hope for the best for the country, but concerned about the forces of globalization.


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