The third week of February this year was the final plenary meeting for InterPARES Trust, the international research project I have been working for since 2013, and we took it back to Cuba, site of the first meeting of CLAID (Caribbean and Latin American InterPARES Dissemination) in 2005. This isn’t the place to talk about the meeting – if you are interested in that, I invite you to go to the InterPARES Trust website. Here I want to celebrate amazing Havana by sharing a few of pictures and stories.
We stayed in the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, now declared a national monument and inscribed in the Memory of the World register. Opened in December 1930, it began as a holiday playground for wealthy Americans and I’m sure its walls could tell many stories beyond the ones told today.
Situated in the Vedado district, the grounds have sweeping views of the ocean and Havana harbour. The two remaining guns from the Santa Clara battery sit on the grounds and in the tunnels below there is a small museum dedicated to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara prepared to defend Havana from aerial attack.
Old Havana is about a 7 km walk from the hotel, and took us through mazes of streets or along the Malecon. Buildings in the old section have mostly been restored – not so for many outside the centre. I often find the juxtaposition of cruise ships (and their passengers) and the local population (and even tourists who use gentler and more integrated forms of transportation) jarring, and Havana was no different.
Everywhere I went I enjoyed good food and was met by friendly people, and realized I had found another part of the world that I want to return to and learn more about!