Former British Secret Service Agent turned author, Graham Greene, conjures Havana as a battlefield on the eve of Castro’s revolution in his novel “Our Man in Havana.” Fifty eight years later, we sampled Havana’s poetry, although Cuba’s past battles are kept front and center.
Castle de los trey reyes del Morro’s cannons defended the eastern headland of Havana Bay from pirate attacks until the end of the 18th century, when the British captured the city.
The Museum of the Revolution documents many aspects of Castro’s rise to power.
The former presidential palace, with much of its opulence intact and its exterior scarred with bullets from a failed assassination attempt on President Batista, houses exhibits including Castro’s battle strategies for specific towns and cities.
Restored to its palatial luster, this room contrasts dramatically with side rooms showing photographs of Castro and Che and their various battle plans.
According to the sign on the left, Castro drove this tank during the Bay of Pigs.
Inside the palace, this mural depicts a crucial battle in Cuba’s war of independence from Spain.
Torre de la Catedral dominates a street corner in Old Havana.
The church’s interior is meticulously maintained.
Around the corner from the church, La Bodeguita del Medio, Hemingway’s favorite bar for mojitos. Don’t believe me? The framed note over the bar is from Hemingway himself.
In September 1997 a bomb went off in the bar as part of a bombing campaign against tourist spots that injured dozens and killed an Italian tourist. While no-one was killed in the Bodeguita, dozens were severely injured. Just moments before the explosion, the barman had agreed to have his picture taken with a tourist who later turned out to be the Salvadorian mercenary arrested and convicted for planting the bomb.
The hotel Ambos Mundo’s roof top provides a view of both Havana’s grandeur and decay. The elevator passes a room used by Hemingway; a typewriter, purportedly one of his, is mounted outside the room door.
The old City streets pulsed with music from bar patios and this band and costumed stilt walkers.
Restored buildings line the Old Havana’s streets.
Colorful dog statues outnumber pedestrians in the old town square during our visit.
Camillo Cienfuegos, a guerrilla leader who played a key role during the fighting, looks out from the Communication Ministry building on to the Plaza of the Revolution.
Che Guevara looks out on the plaza from the Interior Ministry building.
In January 1998, according to Lonely Planet, one million people (nearly one-tenth of the Cuban population) crammed into the square to hear Pope Jean Paul II say Mass.