Five centuries after being founded, the most important heritage of Havana remains intact: its resistance. For a capital of the Antilles, 500 years involve a lot of history. In the case of Havana, in addition, a lot of history superimposed. Thus the colonial or republican, whose buildings and monuments coexist with the 60 years of revolution and socialism that have marked the life of the city since 1959.
The statistics reveal that more than 90% of Havana was built before this last period, so the main contribution of the Revolution to the city would not be constructive, but symbolic. More political than architectural, and with socialist programs based on the urban fabric of the old regimes. From this schizophrenia, Havana of the last decades attacked its political future while freezing its urban development. With a socialist project planted so grudgingly on the capitalist architecture that it preferred to convert the colonial era – never the republican one – into the spearhead of its restoration.
Half a millennium deserves to be celebrated and it is not a matter of underestimating the impact of an imposing city, despite all its ruins and all its political-cyclonic vicissitudes. With its Palace of the General Captains, its cathedral, its Capitol or the same Plaza of the Revolution, built under the last Batista Government and capitalized from the beginning by Fidel Castro.
But it would not be superfluous to review the current city. With those icons that will one day enter, in their own right, in the pantheon of their architecture. Monuments such as the barbecue (added floor to gain space in high and medium pillars), recycled roofs, parks to connect to wifi, the new image of money that emerges from private initiative … All this is an important part of the recent history of some Havanans engaged in the mixture of their survival with medicine almost free, self-employment with the single party. Swinging, in short, between overcrowding and the new hotels of state capitalism; between a city that was saved from the neoliberal speculation of its neighbors in Latin America but not from the socialist apathy, between its postal decline and a communist-communist model that could turn the skyline of the Malecon in a tropical Shanghai. That future has just reached a future that, as William Gibson would say, "is badly distributed."
And here we must ask ourselves what socialism, what democracy or what capitalism are waiting for today in this city that seems to endure everything. Because in that city that has been able to accommodate at the same time so many styles and epochs, political reticence at the time of host the diversity of ideas and positions of its inhabitants. That democracy natural of its architecture has been so superior to the political tolerance of its governments (its captains general, its generals to dry, its commanders).
It is enough to remember how, for decades, the word "citizen" was used in a pejorative way to apply it to delinquents or "deviant" from the socialist project. In its first half millennium, Havana needs to be rebuilt as a city, but before it requires, more urgently, to rebuild itself as a human conglomerate. That its inhabitants go from being urbanites who resist to citizens who decide.
Iván de la Nuez He is an essayist and critic of Cuban art.