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Guide to Havana, Cuba
U.S. Navy 1954

[REF:  Guide to Havana, Cuba, U.S. Navy Fleet Publication 1954]
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(This pamphlet is being distributed to personnel visiting Havana during February 1954)

Geography and Climate

Cuba is a semitropical island located on the upper rim of the torrid zone, a link between the Gulf of Mexico on the West and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.  The largest and richest island in the West Indies, Cuba extends 760 miles in length and varies from 25 to 124 miles in width; no point on the island is more than 40 miles from the sea.  The total area is 44,164 square miles; about the size of Pennsylvania.

Approximately one-half of Cuba consists of flat or rolling terrain, the remainder is hilly or mountainous.  The highest of these mountains rises to 6562 feet, but most of them are less than half this height.  Cuba's temperature averages 77 in the winter and 82 in the summer; an almost continual trade wind alleviates the hotter days.

Brief Historical Summary

Columbus discovered Cuba on his first voyage to the New World in 1492.  By 1515 Diego de Velasques had succeeded in conquering and settling most of the island in the name of the King of Spain, thus bringing four centuries of Spanish rule.

To defend Havana and their other settlements against the buccaneers, the Spaniards built the historic Castillo de la Fuerza in 1538.  From this fortress, Hernando de Soto sailed with his expedition which led to the discovery of the Mississippi River, and Ponce de Leon departed for his exploration of Florida.  From here too, Balboa, Cortez and Pizarro left on their voyages of exploration and conquest.

From the beginning of the colonial period, Cubans suffered from the economic and political restraints imposed on them by their Spanish rulers.  In the 16th century, a large illicit trade developed with foreign colonies and the West Indies pirates; during the next two centuries this illegal trade was of primary importance to the island's economic life.

In 1762, Havana was captured by a strong English force under Lord Albermarle.  It was returned to Spain the next year, however, under a treaty which gave Florida to England.  Though of short duration, the British occupation was important because it revealed Havana's commercial potentialities and opened up the port to trade.

The Napoleonic Wars had an important effect on the island, for during this period Cuba was repeatedly cut off from Spain, and the islanders enjoyed a large measure of economic and political freedom.  The attempts of the Spanish King to re-establish their autocratic rule after the wars with France were met with a series of movements aimed at Cuban independence.

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Throughout the 19th century, Cuban leaders continued their fight for freedom in numerous abortive revolts.  From 1868 to 1878, many of Cuba's greatest heroes laid down their lives in the Ten Years' War, but the superior arms and resources of Spain won out.  The final revolt began in 1895.  In late 1897 there were food riots in Havana which threatened American citizens and their property.  As a result of these riots the USS MAINE arrived there in January 1898.  Tension between the U.S. and Spain continued to mount, and on 15 February the MAINE mysteriously blew up in Havana harbor, carrying 260 of her crew to the bottom.  While a court of inquiry was unable to fix the blame for the explosion, American public opinion ran so high that President McKinley recommended armed intervention to end the conflict in Cuba.  Thus in April, 1898 Congress declared war against Spain, with the provision that control of the island be handed over to the Cuban people once Cuba was free.

The war lasted only four months, and was followed by a period of control by the U.S. Military Government.  In 1901 a Cuban constitution was drawn up providing for a democratic form of government and that same year Estrada Palma was duly elected Cuba's first president.

Cuba today is a sovereign nation.  On March 10, 1952 Gen. Fulgencio Batista seized power, suspended the 1940 Constitution and on April 4 assumed the position of provisional president.  Under a new constitutional code the executive now governs by decree.

The City of Havana

General: The Capital and cultural center of the Republic of Cuba, Havana is situated on the northern coast about 500 miles from the eastern end and approximately 200 miles from the western end of the island.  With an estimated population of more than 850,000 in 1952, Havana is by far the largest city in Cuba.  The harbor of Havana is natural, well-sheltered and landlocked; 80% of Cuba's imports and exports flow over the Port's 50 docks.

Distances by sea from Havana to various U.S. and foreign ports are as follows: Key West, 106 miles; Miami, 222 miles; New Orleans, 694 miles; Veracruz, Mexico, 937 miles; Colon, Panama, 1,155 miles; New York, 1,366 miles; Rio de Janeiro, 4,623 miles; Buenos Aires, 5724 miles.

Points of Interest

The National Capitol Building - Located just southwest of the Parque Central in the heart of the city.  One of the most striking Capitols in the world, built at a cost of $20,000,000.  Exterior of Cuban limestone, steps of Vermont granite, interior lavishly fitted with marble, mahogany, and bronze.  Visiting hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on week-days 9 a.m. to 12 midnight on Sundays.  Admission: $.25.  Visitors in civilian clothes must wear coats.

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MAINE Monument - On the Malecon Drive opposite the National Hotel.  An impressive structure built by the Cuban people in memory of the two officers and 258 crewmen who went down on the battleship MAINE when she was mysteriously blown up on February 15, 1898.  Two months later, the U.S. declared war against Spain, largely because of public feeling whipped up by the battle cry "Remember the MAINE!"  It should be especially noted that while personnel from this ship are visiting Havana, high ranking Cuban and American officials will conduct appropriate ceremonies at the monument on February 15, the 56th anniversary of the disaster.

La Plaza de Armas - First public square laid out in Havana in 1519, and for centuries the center of the city's political, social, and religious life.  City Hall, on the west side of the Plaza, served first (1790) as the official quarters of the Spanish Governors, next of the U.S. administration, and then of the Cuban Presidents until the Presidential Palace was built in 1920.  The central monument is that of Ferdinand VII, whom Napoleon forced to abdicate in 1808.  The Supreme Court building occupies the northwest side of the Plaza.

La Fuerza - Oldest building in Havana and second oldest fort in the New World.  Built by de Soto in the years 1538-1544 to protect the city from pirate raids.  Located just off Plaza de Armas.

El Templete - Cathedral and monument erected on the spot where the first mass and the first city council were held in 1519.  Bones of Columbus were brought here in 1795 to be declared genuine relics by the Church and State officials.  Located on the eastern side of La Plaza de Armas.

El Morro - Another of the massive forts designed to protect Havana against pirate raids; completed in 1597.  Excellent view of the harbor and the city from here.  The tower is now used as a lighthouse and signal station.  Located on the eastern side of the channel entrance leading into the harbor.

Paseo de Marti - Commonly known as the "Prado".  Described as one of the most beautiful avenues in the world.  Extends from La Punta past the Capitol to the Parque de la Fraternidad.

La Punta Fortress - Built about the same time as El Morro to intensify the defenses of the port and city.  Located across the channel from El Morro.  Presently used by the Cuban Navy.

City Wall - Remnants of the old city wall located not far from La Punta.  A high and massive structure which indicates the boundary of old Havana.  The wall required more than a century to build (1633 to 1740), at a cost of $700,000.

Vedado - The most progressive and beautiful suburb of Havana, located to the north of the main part of the city.  Several square miles of ultra-modern and palatial residences.

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Columbus Cathedral - One of the most impressive of Havana's many churches; built in 1704, by the Jesuits.  Excellent example of Hispano-American architecture.  Interior contains many famous paintings.  Columbus' remains rested here for a time.  Located north of Plaza de Armas.

Customs Regulations

Do not barter or sell cigarettes and other U.S. Navy Exchange and Ship's Store items for local merchandise.  Regulations provide that not more than two packs of cigarettes be taken ashore by an individual.  Cameras and portable radios are permissible for personal use.

Although no definite limit for service men has been established by the customs people in Norfolk, it is recommended that the $300 limitation on imports applying to civilians be adhered to.  Customs limit the purchase of the following perfumes to one bottle: Anticipation, Chanel, Coty, Banger, Chantilly, Elizabeth Arden, Jean Patou, Joy, Lanvin, and My Sin.  The purchase of more than one bottle of the above perfumes and/or any of the following perfumes: Woodbury's Academic Amor Skin, Anjoy, Bandit, Campana Dreskin, Cotton Blossom, Devastating, Dreskin, Golden Arrow, Italian Balm, Knize Ten and Old South will require the seals to be broken in the presence of a custom official.  The removal of trade names and trade marks will be required in the presence of a customs official of the following musical instruments: Hohner, Scandali, Dallape and Henri Selmer.  Customs regulations permit only 100 cigars to be brought into the U.S. from Havana.

Liberty Information

Buses: Within the city, transportation is provided by a bus system with fares of 8 cents plus 2 cents for transfer and crossing the Almandares River.

Taxis: From the dock to the center of town $.50 for two persons, approximately $.25 for each additional person, and $2.00 to $2.50 from the center of town to the Miramar or Country Club area.  For other trips, it is always best to arrange the price in advance.  There is no scarcity of taxis in Havana, and they may be readily identified by the word "ALQUILER" which appears above the number on the license plate.  Cabs are of varying hues, and there are no Yellow, Checker, or similar paint jobs to identify them.  Taxis may be hired by the day.  A car for the day should cost about $15 to $20 and it is suggested that two or more drivers be contacted as to price, so that competitive bidding will keep the fare within the normal current range.

Guide Tours: Information on guides and tours may be obtained from the Cuban Transit Commission in Havana.

Money and Exchange: The Cuban Peso is at par with the American Dollar and the two currencies circulate interchangeably in Havana.  Cuban fractional coins consist of silver pieces of 10, 20, and 40 cents and nickel pieces of 1 and 5 cents.

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Shopping: Since Cuban handicraft is limited, and imported articles are usually higher in price than in the United States, shopping in Havana is somewhat difficult.  However alligator bags, perfumes, silk blouses, embroidered handkerchiefs, alligator sandals for children, etc. are among the leading gift purchases.  There are also many inexpensive souvenirs (castanets, maracas, etc.) available.  Cigars are the leading product of the island and are definitely the best buy in Havana. Comparative shopping is suggested.

Golf: Personnel may play golf at the Country Club, about 25 miles from the center of town, if accompanied by a member.

Swimming: Ocean swimming at Playa de Marianao, about 20 minutes drive by auto.  Admission is $.80 to $1.20.  Refreshments are dinners may be bought at the club house.

Motion Pictures: First run theaters downtown are: America, Encanto, Fausto, Radio Cine, Warner and Plaza - Admission $1.00 to $1.50; also there is the Rex Theater, which shows newsreels and short subjects exclusively; the running commentary is in Spanish.

Jai-Alai: The fastest sport in the world is played throughout the year at two frontons in Havana, the main one located at Concordia and Lucena Streets.  Admission is $.80 to $1.25 and the games commence at 2030.  The betting system is very complicated, and unless one is familiar with its intricacies, no bets should be made.

Baseball: A high caliber of baseball is played throughout the year at Tropic park and the Stadium, both some distance from the center of town.  Afternoon games start at 1500, night games at 2100.  General admission is $.50 to a single game.  U.S. major league players participate in the winter games.

Carnival: It is believed that Havana's annual Carnival will take place during the week this ship is in port.  Somewhat similar to New Orleans' Mardi Gras, the celebration will include numerous colorful parades, dances, and public and private masked balls.

Dog Races:  Nightly at 2030 at track near Playa de Marianao (Coreda Beach).


La Moda, Industria near San Rafael (Spanish Food, reasonable)
Frascati, Prado 357 (specialty Italian food)
El Patio, Prado 72 (expensive)
Paris Restaurant, Cathedral Square (expensive)
La Zarogonzana, (La Zaragozana) Monserrate at Obispo Street
Miami, Prado 362
Pan American Club, Bernaza 1
American Club, Prado 309.  A private club with full facilities available if a guest of a member.  This includes meals, bar gymnasium, and reading room.

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Sloppy Joe's, Agramante 250
Florida (Floridita) Bar, Monserrate a Obispo Street (self-styled "Cradle of the Daiquiri").
Two Brothers, 304 Avenida and Puerto
Pan American Club, Berna 291 near Florida Bar

Night Clubs:

Tropicana - Floor Show.  Minimum charge $4.00
                   Avenida Truffin, about 30 minutes by auto from the center of town
Sans Souci - Floor Show.  Minimum charge $3.50
          Central Highway outside Havana
Bambu Room - Floor Show.  Minimum charge similar to Tropicana.
                         Central Highway outside Havana.
Pennsylvania Café - Floor Show.  Minimum charge $1.50
                                About 20 minutes by auto from downtown.
Montmarte - 101 23rd Street. Floor Shows.  Very expensive.
                    Across from Hotel Nacional.


Hotel Nacional is the most expensive hotel in the city.  It has an excellent location, facing the sea, surrounded by gardens, with tennis courts and private swimming pool for guests.  It is a deluxe establishment; the food is good but very expensive.

Hotel Presidente is a very good and comfortable hotel, located in the Vedado residential district near the sea, much less pretentious than the Hotel Nacional; its food is good but expensive.

Hotel Sevilla Biltmore is a popular and comfortable hotel located on the Prado in the center of the shopping district; it has a special rate for military personnel.

[NOTE: Numbers relate to Map References]

Principal Buildings and Places of Public Interest

 1.  National Capitol
 2.  Presidential Palace
 3.  Supreme Court

 4.  Interior
 5.  State
 6.  Justice
 7.  Public Works - Santa Clara Convent
 8.  Treasury
 9.  Education
10.  National Defense
11. Agriculture
12.  Health
13.  Labor
14.  Commerce
15.  Main Post Office San Francisco Convent
16.  Provincial Government
17.  City Hall
18.  National Archives
19.  National Museum
20.  Havana High School (Institute)
21.  School of Arts & Crafts
22.  Finlay Institute
23.  Columbia Military City
24.  Navy Department
25.  Produce Exchange Building
26.  Aldama Palace
    - University of Havana
    - Belen College, Buena Vista
    - National Casino
04- Cuban Telephone Company
27.  Confederation of Cuban Workers Building
  - Cuban Tourist Commission
  - Paula Church (C)
(C) Old Colonial building


28.  The "Templete"
29.  Jose de la Luz y Caballero
30.  Cervantes
31.  Students of 71
32.  Maximo Gomez
33.  Juan Clemente Zenea
34.  Presidente Zayas
35.  Jose Marti
36.  Albear
37.  Indian Fountain
38.  Pan American Fraternity Tree
39.  Marti's birth place
40.  Antonio Maceo
41.  Maine
42.  Chinese Monument
43.  General Alejandro Rodriguez (first Mayor of Havana)
44.  Jose Miguel Gomez
45.  Ferdinand the VII
46.  Finlay

Zoological Park
35.  Central Park
40.  Maceo
41.  Maine
48.  Alameda de Paula
45.  Armas Square
       Cathedral Square
30.  San Juan de Dios
34.  Presidente Zayas
49.  Victor Hugo
50.  Gonzalo de Quesada
51.  Menocal
52.  Pasteur
53.  Tulipan


54.  Columbus Cathedral
55.  Angel
56.  Christ
57.  Saint Francis
58.  Holy Ghost
59.  Mercy
60.  Monserrat
61.  Sacred Heart
62.  Carmen
63.  Saint John of Letran
64.  Vedado Parish
65.  Baptist
66.  Methodist
67.  Presbiterian


      Havana Yacht Club
      Miramar Yacht Club
68.  Jaimanitas Club
69.  Deportivo Club (Miramar)
47.  Deportivo Club
70.  Hijas de Galicia
       Military Civic Institute
71.  Club Nautico de Marianao
72.  Spanish Casino
       Professionals' Club
78.  Vedado Tennis Club


73.  "La Concha" - Marianao


74.  Galician Club
75.  Asturian Club
76.  Clerk's Club
77.  Spanish Club
       Union Club
       Country Club
79.  Grand Lodge of the Island of Cuba
80.  American Club
81.  Automovil & Aereo Club
83.  Lyceum Lawn Tennis Club


 7.  Santa Clara Convent
15. San Francisco Convent


95.  America
84.  Amphitheatre (Open air theatre)
85.  Alcazar
86.  Auditorium
87.  Campoamor
88.  Encanto
89.  Fausto
90.  Payret
91.  Principal de la Comedia
92.  Nacional
95.  Radio Cine
105. Rex
94.  Riviera
96.  Trianon
77-A Warner's (CMQ Radio Center)


97.  Fronton Jai-Alai
98.  Fronton Havana-Madrid
       Conventions & Sports Palace
99.  Polar Stadium
100. Tropical Stadium
        University Stadium
        Grand Stadium of Havana
78.  Vedado Tennis Club Stadium
        Children's Playground
101. Valla Habana (cock fights)
102.  Orphan Asylum Stadium


103.  Alamar, Galiano 308
104.  Ambos Mundos, Obispo 153
105.  Bristol, Amistad & San Rafael
106.  Florida, Obispo 252
107.  Gran America, Industria 502
108.  Inglaterra, Prado 416
109.  Havana Blackstone, Cuba & Amargura
110.  Lafayette, O'Reilly 264
111.  Lincoln, Galiano & Virtudes
112.  Monserrat, Monserrate 401
113.  Nacional de Cuba, O & 21st Vedado
114.  New York, Dragones 156
115.  Nueva Isla, Monte 259
116.  Ocean, Malecon & Genios
117.  Packard, Prado & Carcel
118.  Park, Zapata & Paseo, Vedado
119.  Parkview, Morro & Colon
120.  Pasaje, Prado 115
121.  Perla de Cuba, Amistad 458
122.  Plaza, Neptuno & Zulueta
123.  Presidente, Calzada & G, Vedado
124.  Regina, Industria 410
125.  Ritz, Neptuno 514
126.  Royal Palm, Industria & San Rafael
127.  S. Carlos, Ave. de Belgica 507
128.  San Luis, Belascoain 73
129.  Saratoga, Prado 603
130.  Sevilla-Biltmore, Prado 255
131.  Vedado, 101 Nineteenth, Vedado


132.  Apartment Hotel, 8 & 19 Sts., Vedado
133.  Areces, Prado 106
134.  Biarritz Residential, Prado 519
135.  Carabanchel, O'Reilly 360
136.  Gran Hotel, Ave. del Brasil 557
137.  Moderno, Dragones 165
138.  Palacio, Ave. de Belgica 359
139.  Regis Residencial, Prado 163
140.  Trotcha, Calzada 758, Vedado


141.  Children's
142.  Maternity
143.  Mercedes
144.  Emergencia
145.  Anglo-American
         "Covadonga" Clinic (Asturian Club)
         "Purisima" Clinic (Clerks Club)


Morro Castle
La Cabana
La Fuerza - National Library
La Punta - General Headquarters of the Navy
Principe Castle - City Prison
Chorrera Fort


Rancho Boyeros Airport
Military Airport (Columbia)


Central R R Station
Central Bus Station


S. Francisco (Custom House)
Santa Clara
United Fruit
Ward Line
Peninsular & Occidental SS Co.


Bosque de la Habana (Havana Forest)
Toledo Sugar Mill
146.  Quinta de los Molinos
146.  Botanical Gardens
147.  "La Tropical" Gardens
 99.  "La Polar" Gardens
148.  Almendares Bridge
         Havana Aqueduct


Arroyo Arenas
El Cano
Marianao City
Rancho Boyeros

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