65 years witnessing history

65 years witnessing history
Fecha de publicación: 
31 March 2023
Imagen principal: 

Former Habana Hilton Hotel was opened on March 19, 1958 after three years of construction works. This is an iconic building located at one of the most famous street corners from the Havana’s popular neighborhood El Vedado, L and 23. Back at that time, this neighborhood had its glory days and today, it is still regarded as the city center.


The American architecture studio Welton Beckett & Associates was responsible for its design, as well as the Cuban architecture firm Menéndez-Arroyo. And even now when the city showcases other large buildings, back at the time, the Habana Hilton, with its 27 stories, was the largest and greatest hotel in Latin America.

Over 200 meters above sea level, from its early days it stood out for its presence and for offering a panoramic view of the capital city of Cuba, beyond the north coast line. It was easily distinguished in the environment not only because of its size but also because of its structure, which stands out with straight contours of reinforced concrete, plus its columns with abacuses and capitals.

Expensive, elegant, imposing, with a modern style, very striking for its beauty and attention to detail, it was managed by the North American hotel company Hilton, and since its opening it was a favorite with tourists.

Symbol of a time, it was part of the revolutionary process. For three months, the headquarter of the rising revolutionary government was established there, with Fidel Castro. At the room named La Castellana, 2324, the beginning of the Cuban Revolution was envisioned. The first social measures were taken there and important meetings, news conference, interviews were carried out there.

After some disagreement between Hilton and the country’s leadership, in mid-1960, the hotel was nationalized. From then on, the hotel name changed to Habana Libre.

Its exclusive, central location, surrounded by important economic and cultural buildings, grants it preferential privileges. It has a special charm. It is located in a very popular and busy area. However, once you are in, calm embraces you. A large, well-illuminated lobby welcomes you, with a singular, beautiful and simple decoration, which at the same time allows the coexistence of many people in various environments, without seeming overloaded or imposing one on another.

Currently, in addition to rooms of different categories, from standard to high-end, the four-star facility boasts shops, travel agency offices, cafeterias, bars, restaurants, rooms for events, meetings, and conferences, a cabaret, and a pool.

Its majesty has the added value of exclusive works of plastic arts with a patrimonial feature that are treasured there with great pride, such as the front mural by artist Amelia Peláez, Las frutas cubanas, one of the largest in the country with an area of over 600m2. It is visible from afar and is the hallmark of the hotel with its 6.7 million small stones or glass paste tesserae. El Carro de la Revolucion, by artist Alfredo Sosabravo, is also showcased there. He used over 500 ceramic pieces to make it. The mural Historia de las Antillas, by renowned artist René Portocarrero is also shown there. For over 60 years, the halls of the facility have shown exhibitions of the Cuban artistic avant-garde as an inexhaustible source of promotion of national culture.

In addition to its leading involvement in the Cuban social outbreak and its link with art, the splendor of the Habana Libre Hotel is measured by the personalities and events hosted there. The first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereskova, chess player José Raúl Capablanca, actors Elizabeth Taylor, Mario Moreno, and Matt Damon, singer Sara Montiel, and model Naomi Campbell, are just some of them.

It has hosted several events and international congress related to the socio-political, scientific, cultural, and sports fields. In 2013, renowned French Spider man climbed its walls and lasted less than half an hour in doing so. In 1998, the hotel welcomed over 2 thousand reporters covering the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba and in 2016, it was used as the press center during the visit of then U.S. President Barack Obama. Major gala dinners, health and law conventions, and much more have been carried out there.

Thus, 65 years later, beyond its architectural value, and its current and modern design, the Habana Libre Hotel remains a representation of a period, and one of the most emblematic places in the Cuban capital. For this reason, throughout this year 2023, the Hotel has designed an agenda of activities to celebrate its journey through history, being a cocktail competition and exhibitions of art works among the most important ones.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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