DOCUMENT  0234-11

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Havana Crossroads of the World 1958

[GENTE Magazine, Vol. 1,  Havana, January 5, 1958, No. 1, American Edition]

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PHOTO CAPTION - STOP for a moment on any street-corner in downtown Havana and watch the passing parade of human faces.  Scrutinize them carefully and what do you see?  That blond man over there for instance–the man with the

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PHOTO CAPTION - Lovely royal palms, trade marks of the Cuban landscape, lend their tropical splendor to the grounds of the Capitol Building in Havana.  In the spacious sidewalks in front of the Capitol are sidewalk cafes reminiscent of Paris.
PHOTO CAPTION – Confident, free and happy.  These are the characteristics of the Cuban people.  Their dress is light for comfort under the warm rays of the Caribbean sun.  Above is seen a street crossing on Galiano Avenue in the center of Havana's fashionable shopping district.

blue eyes and curved nose.  Who is he?  He is evedently [evidently] Jewish, but is he European or American?  Is he from Berlin, Prague or from the Bronx in New York?

Hazard a guess but chances are you'll be wrong.  Them man's name is Goldstein, but he's Cuban.  He's as Cuban as the Cuba Libre.

And that slight man over there, walking fast.  His eyes are black and slightly slanted.  His face is the color of old ivory.  Asiatic, you'd say at once.   But when he speaks it's in fluent Spanish, or "Cubano" as Cubans say when referring to the Spanish spoken in Cuba.  The man's name is Wong, but he's Cuban too.

And what about that youngster over there the boy with the brown hair and green eyes, the jaunty step, creased blue jeans and white T-shirt?  He'd be as much at home in Flushing, Chicago, Denver or Tuscaloosa.  But he answers to the name of Fernandez and speaks no English.

And so they go, dozens of them passing by.  The young, the old, the pretty and the handsome.  Now take that lovely girl looking in the store window, the one with the slightly salnted eyes and the silken hair.  She looks like a beauty from Bali, but she's be carrying a jug neatly balanced on her beautifully-groomed head.  But this isn't Bali; this is San Rafael Street in the

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PHOTO CAPTION – Havana's Paseo de Marti, better known as The Prado, is shaded by gorgeous laurel trees which form a verdant archway for passerby.  The Prado divides the downtown area into two parts, the old colonial section of the city and the neighborhoods which were developed later.
PHOTO CAPTION – This scene is undoubtedly familiar to the American reader.  This is Havana, but the crowd might pass for any other crowd in Philadelphia, Chicago or Los Angeles.


heart of Havana's fashionable downtown shopping district.

The Cuban types are varied and always colorful.  There's the Indian, an oldster with the wrinkled and impassive countenance of an inhabitant of the Andean plateaus.  And there's the Negro, a veritable hercules who gesticulates with his powerful arms and shows flashes of gleaming white teeth through his thick lips as he chatters and laughs.

The visitor to Havana is overwhelmed by the multiplicity of types that he sees in the Cuban capital.  He is constantly amazed at the harmony and gaiety of Cuban life and the joyous spirit in which nearly a million Cubans live, work and play together in what has been called the "Babel of the Tropics".  For this is the crossroads of the world, a melting pot of races and civilizations, a city bewitched which casts its spell over the visitor with a contagious "joie de vivre".  In a matter of hours he is enraptured, his indifference gone.  He has found a new home.

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PHOTO CAPTION - A nook in the heart of Havana is famed Fraternity Park with its fountain of old marble. In the background rises the Aldama Palace, in colonial times the residence of a very wealthy family.

The Metamorphosis of the Junker

It was always thus in Havana...

They tell the story here of the first German minister to Cuba, in the days before World War I when was an infant republic.  The minister was a strict "junker", a proud and haughty emissary of Kaiser Wilhelm.  He wore enormous mustaches, and his manner was that of a disdaining grand duke.

Colonial Palaces and Skyscrapers Side by Side

His movements were those of an automaton.

As a result, a group of neighborhood youngsters who used to play baseball in an empty lot in front of the ministerial residence were surprised one day to find the German envoy watching them intently from his front porch.  His cold blue eyes seemed to mask a natural curiosity as he watched them take their turns at bat.

But, as we said, this is Havana and things have a unique way of turning out in Cuba.  No Prussian junker remains a junker long in the gay, informal atmosphere of this happy-go-lucky city...

For one day shortly thereafter, a prominent Cuban diplomat and politician happened to visit at the residence of the honorable representative of Kaiser Wilhelm.  A servant opened the door and informed the Cuban visitor that the minister was not at home.  He then directed the visitor's gaze across the street –and there was the minister playing second base for the neighborhood nine.

And the formerly very stiff junker was doing all right, too.  He fielded ground balls like a professional and brought cheers when he got a base hit on his first time at bat.

One Hundred Cities One

Different men build their home in different ways because they live in different areas and in different lands.  The types of homes that can made from wood and stone vary as the number of people on earth.

Havana is different, but it's also the same.  As you cross with the traffic lights at the corner of Galiano and San Rafael Streets in the heart of the city's downtown section, you might almost think that you are at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan.  The same wide boulevards, the same impatient traffic, the same crowds and the same luxuriously furnished store windows.

Then you are walking down a lovely


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PHOTO CAPTION - Cathedral Square dreams of centuries past.  The square remains exactly as it was in the days when witches were burned in Salem and pirates stormed the rich settlements of the Spanish colonial isles.  Only the uotline [hotline] of an automobile indicates that this is 1957 – instead of 1557.
PHOTO CAPTION – Leading to Havana's Presidential Palace are many majestic avenues flanked by modern buildings, and also small streets like this which still seem to resound to the echo of footsteps of men of the era of the cape and the sword.
PHOTO CAPTION – Few places in Havana have as rich a historical background as this.  On the left is the Castillo de la Fuerza, built some four centuries ago.  In the right background is the Cabana fortress.  In the right foreground near the small temple with classic architecture is the under which the "Conquistadores" observed their first man on Cuban soil.


avenue lined with trees and thick shrubbery, and you may wonder if this isn't Paris.

A few moments later you may find yourself in a narrow, one-way street with tall colonial-style buildings rising steeply on either side.  On many of the doors you will see the coats of army of old Castillian families.  And you could easily imagine that you were in old Toledo.

This, is truth, is Havana.  One hundred cities in one, a cosmopolitan center where the warmth and similarity of the people have barred the door to the feeling of hardness and smug sofistication [sophistication] and absence of human warmth so evident in many of the world's great capitals.

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PHOTO CAPTION – The Almendares River forms the boundary line between Havana and the township of Marianao lying to the west of the city.  The banks of the river are lined by shipyards, fishermen's huts, varying industries, the dwellings of poor families and sumptuous residences.  Beyond the river in the Marianao section lie residential areas which rival for their beauty and luxury suburbs in other world capitals.
PHOTO CAPTION – Havana's Malecon, or shoreline drive, is known thorught the world.  A balcony out over the Gulf of Mexico, the Malecon furnishes an unforgettable view to the first-time visitor to Cuba's shores.  At night many-colored neon and electric signs illuminate the drive.

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PHOTO CAPTION - The Embassy of the United States is lodged in a building with ultra-modern lines located in one of the most attractive spots in the Cuban capital.  Much of the embassy personel [personnel] lives in apartments overlooking the embassy building itself.
PHOTO CAPTION - Near the Maine Monument and the American Embassy an impressive skyline made up of modern building is gradually ound for the buildings which look out over its blue waters evolving.  The Gulf of Mexico forms a spectacular background.

The character of the Cuban is that of an expansive extrovert, euphorious and hospitable.  This has resulted in the preservation and continued growth among a population of more than a million people, many of them from the four corners of the earth, of that feeling of familiarity and cooperation which is so often associated today only with small cities and towns.

A Stranger Becomes a Brother

Perhaps the visitor to Havana feels somewhat taken aback at first by the familiarity and warmth of his dealings with people he hardly knows.  The city receives him with open arms and it takes him time to realize that this unaccustomed familiarity is in fact a finer and more sincere welcome than the "red carpet" treatment accorded so many distinguished guests.

Often during the rush hours, in the crowded streets and buses, one man will want to move past another.  In such circumstances the almost universal expression is the formal and correct "Excuse me, Sir".  But this man, remember is a "Habanero", and for him there is no formal and correct expression.  Instead he says with a smile: "Give me a chance brother".

That's how it is in Havana with a stranger, a man you have never seen before but who will still treat you with the utmost kindness and good fellowship.

Tradition and Progress go Hand in Hand

The most pampered millionaire can satisfy his most remote wants in modern, up-to-minute Havana.  For one thing Havana is so close to the United States–literally minutes by plane from Miami and only four hours from New York–that the very latest American gadget or invention is one the market or in actual operation in Cuba with a few days after its initial appearance in the U.S.

Havana is characterized by an acute anacronism [anachronism] –the new, as typified by skyscrapers, air conditioning, electronically-operated doors and the latest style automobiles, and the old, a people which has still not been able, or has not wished, to let go the ancient customs inherited from the Spanish "conquistadores" and their colonial descendents.

All this is for the visitor to see.  If he wishes to make his stay in Havana a vital and living experience, he can visit the waterfront bars, for instance, located in the gay seafaring and commercial district.  Or he can visit the elegant night clubs with their fabulous and internationally-known floorshows, the smaller tightly-packed cabarets where couples dance to the sensual beat of the Caribbean rythmes [rhythms], the exclusive hotels, the working men's sections, gorgeous residential zones and the city's suburbs with their small but clean homes.

All this in Havana –the 1957 Cadillac, the jungle of television antennae rising over the roofs of the houses and the creaking cart as it is drawn past by an indolent mule, the happy-go-lucky youngster dancing "rock'n roll" and the women of the poorer neighborhoods who show off the dance rythmes [rhythms] of their slave ancestors at the grandiose Havana Carnival.

The visitor to Havana can circulate freely in all of Havana's many and varying atmospheres.  Behind the wheel of an automobile he can drive through the Cuban countryside on the many modern highways which radiate out from Havana to all the nooks and crannies of this interesting country.  In every town and city he'll find the same warm welcome.  Havana, crossroads of the world, is Cuba's pride and joy.  And it is a city where two persons who have never met before call one another "my brother".

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