Havana: an eclectic city
Habana offers endless opportunities for those travelers who love visual arts, the architecture and history of cities.
Indeed, La Bienal de La Habana is the most relevant event about visual arts; however, any time of the year is a good time for you travel to Cuba if you are searching for music, folklore, dance and other artistic expressions.
Walking through its streets is like walking through an open-air museum, since the history of that city - which next year celebrates its 500th anniversary of foundation -, allows to consolidate a multicultural idiosyncrasy.
Travelling to Havana means to be in direct contact with an eclectic arquitecture . While one can identify lots of styles, "the city of columns" -as Cuban writer Alejo Carpentieronce defined it- features several styles in the same streets and even buildings
The colonial city is articulated through squares, among which the Plaza Viejaoutstands, as well as the Plaza de la Catedraloutstands, as well as the Plaza de Armas and the Plaza de San Francisco de Asís.
Architectural exponents of the 18th and 19th centuries meet in these squares. The baroque can be enjoyed on the facade of the cathedral and in the church of San Francisco de Asís, a faithful example of the transition from the medieval Mudejar to the baroque.
Civil architecture features some andalusí spanish baroque examples (adapted to the local weather), such as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales located in Plaza de Armas. The truth is that Havana both from the centre and in its outskirts offers a route through all the different styles along art history.
Capitolio and its surroundings
If we move to the "zero point" of the city we will see a Neoclassical Capitol, and if we go down the Paseo del Prado, we can enjoy one of the most relevant military buildings in the Caribbean, as is the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro.
Modernism in the Capital of Cuba
Modernism also reached the streets of Havana. Throughout the Republic the focus changed from París to New York, regarding both economics and art
The art decó and the art nouveau They took root in the capital, large buildings corroborate it. A visit to the Teatro América, the Bacardí building and the Fausto cinema allows you to appreciate the variations that art decó suffered in Cuba, as its variations on the island enriched it with tropical motifs.
On the other hand, art nouveau was mainly used for private houses.. To appreciate it, it is necessary to walk the streets of Old Havana and Centre Havana
It is present in the houses of the Catalan emigrants, located in the central areas of the city: Calle Reina, Cárdenas and Cienfuegos; or in the neighborhoods of the petty bourgeoisie: Víbora and Luyanó.
Although currently many of these buildings are almost in ruins, they still keep the architectural memory of that style that became visible, especially on the facades of the buildings, since their plants were not transformed.
If we move to the neighborhood of Vedado and Nuevo Vedado we will experience the splendor reached by Modernism in the 50s and the 60s of last century
El Vedado emerged with modern aspirations,, and this can be distinguished after a walk through its wide avenues, flanked by large mansions of the Republican era and by modern houses of rationalist and brutalist style.
For example, Pabellón Cuba it is a space that brings together art from all sides: the building itself is a brutalism example; while inside it hosts contemporary visual arts exhibitions. contemporáneas.
On the other hand, the neighborhoods of Nuevo Vedado, Kholy and Miramar show the habitat of a high bourgeoisie that imported rationalism as an architectural style for their homes. From the triumph of the Revolution onwards, the architecture was marked by the impulse of the use of prefabricated materials; nevertheless, it is worth visiting some of the most relevant exponents.
A visit to this educational center allows us to appreciate the genius of three architects who were interested in making architecture a space of forms, but also of content. In addition, you can be in direct contact with the new generations in training and with art professionals.
Cultural options in Havana
The capital of all Cubans has become a plural city over the centuries, a city where the cultural and artistic component define it in every corner. Cuba is pleasantly known for the quality of its musicians.
The son and the rumba, for example, can be enjoyed in the Casa de la Rumbaor in the Callejón de Hamel, where Cuban dancers practice to the rhythm of batá drums..
On the other hand, art galleries are distributed throughout the city, although the most relevant are located in the areas of Old Havana, Vedado and Miramar.
The network of galleries has solo and collective exhibitions throughout the year, so Havana constantly offers options for lovers of visual arts.
Many of them belong to the Cuban Fund of Cultural Property, while others are of private initiative; and we also can fin artists' studios-galleries. The súmmum of this artistic circuit is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Its two buildings, one dedicated to Cuban art and another with a universal art collection, deserve a leisurely visit to be able to enjoy both the works exhibited there, as well as the buildings themselves. The Museum formerly was the Centro Asturiano de La Habana, and today a clear example of eclecticism, where neoclassical motifs predominate
Cultural Events in Havana
Those looking for cultural options in Havana will, for example, find a great opportunity in december if you fancy cinema Festival de Cine Latinoamericanotakes place that month, in the form of a competitive event where the unpublished work of cuban and latin american film makers is exhibited
It is also true that French film Festival has a larger audience every year, so it becomes another opportunity to be taken into account by lovers of the seventh art. And, as Habana is so artistically inclusive, ballet and theater also find a place within its cultural offer.
Every May, Theatre festivaltakes place, , and the theaters of the capital sell out those days with the best shows for children and adults; as well as some abroad productions
Moreover, the Festival Internacional de Ballet de La Habana, with more than 50 years of history, turns the Gran Teatro de La Habana every two years into a unqiue an iconic scene, adorned by renowned figures of the international and cuban dance. .
Leisure in Havana
Those who approach the Cuban capital will undoubtedly have multiple options. Its beaches, its mojito and daiquirí attract many travelers; However the Havana cultural scene offers nonstop activities
There is a lot to see and to do in Havana, because we speak of an island that although territorially small, has an artistic potential that is enriched every day due to the preservation of its traditions and a quality artistic-professional training.
Julienne López Hernández
Degree in History of Art