From our archives:
As you travel throughout Cuba, you’ll notice each town has its own unique architectural character illustrating the history of that particular city.
Architecture in Cuba is quite diverse. Hundreds of years of Spanish colonization influenced the colonial, baroque, and neoclassical styles that can be found in Cuba. However, throughout the 20th century, architecture also began to reflect styles like art nouveau, art deco, and eclecticism. Some were modeled off of famous buildings from the United States. For example, El Capitolio Nacional in Havana was modeled off of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
When I backpacked through Cuba a month ago, I found that the architecture in places like La Habana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad were some of the most elegant architectural masterpieces in all of the Caribbean.
While many other websites such as the BBC, and InsightCuba have written some great articles on the history of Cuban architecture, I would like to touch on the restoration projects happening in Havana, as well as expand on some of the stylistic elements of the architecture in Cienfuegos, and Trinidad.
Restoration in La Habana
Havana is the cultural and international hub of Cuba. To no one’s surprise it gets a lot of media attention. And, the media tends to portray Havana as a place that is decaying. However, what travelers would discover if they went to La Habana, a place that should not be missed, would be a vast range of styles. From the Gothic-styled Church Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, to the various art deco buildings—some might see a resemblance to Miami’s South Beach. The city’s architecture is expansive.
After becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, many organizations have been dedicated to restoring Old Havana. The Cuban corporation Habaguanex Tourist Company, along with the City Historians’ Department of Architecture, and The National Centre for Conservation, Restoration and Museum Studies have taken the lead on restoring most of the old city.
The Old Havana Restoration Initiative has conveniently recorded the restoration process for the public.
Eusebio Leal talks about the social implications of the restoration here.
Some of the most iconic Cuban architecture comes from Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. Cienfuegos is called La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south).
One particular must-see here is the Palacio del Valle. Designed in Moorish revival style, the Palacio has been compared to the Alhambra in Southern Spain.
Colonial architecture in Trinidad
Located on the southeast of Cienfuegos is Trinidad—a place that feels like stepping into a different world. Equally impressive, this pastel-colored town with cobblestone streets still seems to look like it did at its colonial peak. As Cuba’s third oldest settlement, Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Spanish explorer Diego Velázquez.
This small town is an architectural jewel. One of my favorite buildings is the Iglesia Santa Ana, a decaying church located a short walk from the city center.
If you want to find out more about Cuban colonial architecture, visit the website for the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial.
If you’re interested in learning more about Cuban architecture, I strongly suggest going to check it out yourself. Follow the link below to find out how!
Want to travel to Cuba? Read here