Discovering Cuba through Havana Vieja
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is one of the most visited towns in the Caribbean. Being one of the Spanish-built cities and the heart of the Cuban revolution, it is certainly a history holder. Each architecture of Havana indeed tells over five centuries of history. For instance, the Plaza Vieja.
A restored site of Havana Vieja
If you want to know about the now and then Cuba, Plaza Vieja is the place to be. Surrounded by an heterogenous architecture, the then market has become a place that gathers both locals and tourists today. But before it got there, a lot happened. The Plaza Vieja, Old Plaza in English, was built in 1587 to meet the demand of the people of Havana. Thirty years earlier, the Plaza de Armas was taken over by the Spanish for their military exercises. Later, it was named as the Cuban government’s seat. The populace then asked for another square where they could gather and relax since the Plaza de Armas was now closed to them. The process was long, but they got their Plaza Nueva – now the Plaza Vieja. Back then, the square was surrounded by the upper-class and rich Cubans houses. The eclectic architectural mix started then because there was a competition of whose mansion was the most fashionable. That sadly led to the place to be engulfed and be abandoned in the 1950s. The square became a mere parking garage and the buildings, not taken care of, started to deteriorate. After the revolution and when Havana Vieja was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the government and the citizens of Havana worked together to restore the square. Their hard work paid off since the Plaza Vieja is full of life again.
A gathering of history, art and entertainment
The old mansions have also been restored along the square. However, they are not housing people anymore. Nowadays, the buildings are now home to art galleries, restaurants and cafés. Foodies will find heaven in Plaza Vieja. The wide variety of cuisine will tickle anyone’s taste buds. The most popular food businesses are Café el Escorial, Azucar and Taberna de la Muralla – which is the only microbrewery in Cuba and has some of the finest beers. History buffs and art lovers will also love visiting the Casa de los Condes de Jaruco, in the southwest side of the square. The beautiful 18th century building holds inside of itself art pieces from the colonial era to today and also from abroad. In the west also lies another art gallery: the Casa de Juan Rico de Mada. Unlike the Casa de los Condes de Jaruco, you will likely only find photography of local and international artists in there. Havana’s Centre for the Development of Visual Arts is also located in Plaza Vieja, in its east side. It is housed in the Casa de las Hermanas Cardenas. Other than being a place for tourists, Plaza Vieja is also a spot for locals to enjoy drinks, listen and dance to live music. It is, thus, the perfect place to dive into the Cuban lifestyle.