Recap :: Long Studio to Havana, Day 6

Photo by: John Pilling 

By John Pilling, Havana Long Studio Instructor

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Yule met us in the morning to drive to the Parque Central to pick up Architect Isabel León from the office of the Historian.  Isabel was our guide for the Organiponico de Alamar and for the new construction in Alamar for residents of La Habana Vieja who had traded their space in La Habana Vieja for a property in Alamar.  When we arrived at Alamar, we were welcomed by the head of the Organiponico.   He explained that the Organiponico is a coop comprised of about 130 persons who work 10.3 hectares of land as a truck farm.  This urban farm is one of the most well-known and successful ventures of its kind in Cuba.  All of its techniques and materials are done without any industrial chemicals.  The fruit and produce grown there is sold to both local residents as well as tourist hotels.  These cooperatives originated from special period when the financial support and industrial farming techniques of the Eastern Block were no longer viable.  Now the urban farmers can boast that their inventiveness out of adversity has resulted in a sustainable agricultural method that is gentler on the planet.  This and the other Organipoinicos in Cuba now grow about 60 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed by Cubans.  Isabel bought everyone a coffee or refreshment at the ‘3 B’ carreta across from the Organiponico, and then we went to visit the historian’s office housing construction site. 

Photo by: John Pilling 

The office is building homes for people from La Habana Vieja who agree to give up their space.  La Habana Vieja is badly overcrowded, and it’s not possible to restore the buildings with the same number of apartments that exist.  Spaces have been subdivided vertically and horizontally to the point that two families totaling 7 or 8 people are living in a barracoa whose two floors are no more than about 150 square feet.  The historian’s office builds the new homes in Alamar using concrete panel systems, and the office must follow the planning guidelines of Alamar.  We met several families who had moved from Old Havana.  One of the families was very happy with their move, because they were in constant fear of the building they occupied on the Malecon collapsing.

Photo by: John Pilling 

We had lunch in Cojímar, the fishing port at which Hemingway moored his sport fisherman, Pilar.  Before lunch we had time for sketching and photos.  We ate at La Terraza, one of the author’s favorites, and we celebrated the birthday of Robert. 

After lunch we stopped at the Villa Panamericana for photos and sketches, and we stopped briefly at the Unidad Camilo Cienfuegos, both in Habana del Este.  We asked Yule and the driver to drop us at the Hotel Nacional at the end of the organized part of the day.  It goes without saying that there is a lot of contrast between Alamar and the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. 

Historic photo of the Pilar from the Vinca Vigia Gift Shop 

We split into two groups for dinner, and we discovered that Valentine’s Day is a big deal in Havana.  Everyone was dressed up, and many of the restaurants and bars had special packages for dinner and dancing.  Right after warning Sylvia to be careful with the unexpected curbs in Havana’s sidewalks, John took a dive at the Focsa Building, where, luckily the only thing he broke was his glasses.