Cubanacán is—or was—Havana’s Beverly Hills, a reclusive area on either side of the Río Quibu. It was developed in the 1920s with winding tree-lined streets on which the most grandiose ofHavana’s mansions arose. An 18-hole golf course at the Havana Country Club served Havana’s wealthy classes, lending the name Country Club Park to what is now called Cubanacán, still the swankiest address in town.
Following the Revolution, most of the area’s homeowners fled Cuba. Their mansions were dispensed to Communist Party officials, many of whom live in a lap of luxury that the vast majority of Cubans can only dream of and, of course, never see.
The Castros maintain several homes here, and the area is replete with military camps and security personnel. Other homes serve either as “protocol” houses—villas where foreign dignitaries and VIPs are housed during visits—or as foreign embassies and ambassadors’ homes, among them the U.S. Residency (even the U.S. Marines have a house).
One of the swankiest mansions was built in 1910 for the Marqués de Pinar del Río; it was later adorned with 1930s art deco glass and chrome, a spiral staircase, and abstract floral designs. Today it is the Fábrica El Laguito (Av. 146 #2302, e/ 21 y 21A, tel. 07/208-4654, by appointment only), the nation’s premier cigar factory, making Montecristos and the majority of Cohibas—the premium Havana cigar.
Havana’s impressive convention center, the Palacio de las Convenciones (Convention Palace, Calle 146, e/ 11 y 13, tel. 07/202-6011, fax 07/208-4329, www.cpalco.com), was built in 1979 for the Non-Aligned Conference. The main hall (one of 15), seating 2,200 delegates, hosts twice-yearly meetings of the Cuban National Assembly. To its rear, Pabexpo (Av. 17 y 180, tel. 07/271-6775) has four exhibition halls for trade shows.
Cuba’s biotechnology industry is also centered here and extends westward into the districts of Atabey and Siboney, earning the area the moniker “Scientific City.” The convoluted roads of Siboney and Cubanacán follow no logical order. The Centro de Ingenieria Genética y Biotecnología (Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Av. 31, e/ 158 y 190, Havana, tel. 07/271-6022, http://gndp.cigb.edu.cu), Cuba’s main research facility, is perhaps the most sophisticated research facility in any developing nation.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition