Spreading outward over time, Havana has become a sprawling city, but the scope of this growth can be hard to understand for those who don’t live in, or study, the area. As an effort to display this growth, a scale model of the city was created and offers an interesting and insightful view of the city and if you can get there it is something that you will not want to miss.
In 1978, the historical center of Havana and its system of military fortifications dating back from colonial days, were declared a National Monument and in 1982 were included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Old Havana, covers an area of 2.14 square kilometers. This primarily consists of two distinct areas: the old walled city and the surrounding strip that was developed following demolition of the walls from the mid-nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth.
The Scale Model of Havana was designed to provide a clear look at how the city was originally laid out and how it expanded over time. The model is color coded according to the age of the buildings and landmarks, making it easy to understand how and when growth occurred.
Cuban artist, Orlando Martorell, his wife and a team of modelers were the creators of the Old Havana Scale Model, a work that took them 3 years to complete and it was built to at a scale of 1:1500.
Among Martorell’s work is also the scale model of the historic center of Alcalá in Spain.
The Scale Model of Old Havana also features a beautiful lighting system that simulates day and night, sunrise and sunset, the lights and shadows of the city. This system also integrates sounds like the singing of birds, the authentic sounds of the city, the murmur of the waves of the sea, the bells of the nearby colonial churches, and even the noisy genuine sound of the firing of the canon at 9pm. The canon was originally used to signal the closing of the city gates, which stayed closed until dawn, it is the only way to experience what the city looked like over the centuries.
In 1890 there was a serious explosion which destroyed a hardware store in Havana….this is the text from the newspaper article from the Los Angeles Herald ……
THIRTY-FOUR PEOPLE KILLED AND ONE HUNDRED INJURED
“A Barrel of Powder in a Burning Hardware Store Was the Agency of Death.
Terrible Effects of the Explosion.
Havana, May 18. —During a fire in a hardware store last night a barrel of powder exploded. The whole structure was blown to pieces, and twenty-two persons killed. Among the dead are four tire chiefs and the Venezuelan consul, Seiior Franciso j Silva, who happened to be in front of the building at the time of the explosion. In addition to the killed, over one hundred persons are injured. The explosion caused the wildest excitement throughout the city, and thousands flocked to the scene of the disaster. The municipal authorities were promptly on the ground, and did everything in their power to aid the injured.” Several houses adjacent were damaged by the explosion. Later—The number of dead up to this morning was thirty-four. A gang of men is at work on the debris. Many human limbs have been taken out. The relatives of missing persons are gathered on the spot, and as the bodies are brought out the scenes are distressing. The proprietor of the hardware store has been arrested. It is feared that several more victims are in the ruins.”
The powder had been stored there illegally and the owner, despite being at the scene, did not warn the volunteer firemen who rushed in just before the explosion.
The monument to the volunteer Firemen…..
On a lighter note, there is a mysterious brass statue in what is called Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza). A woman sits atop her big, feathery rooster mount, completely naked except for the stilettos on her feet. A massive forks rests on her right shoulder. The rooster, stoically gazes ahead.
No one seems to know what the meaning is behind this statue. Some tour guides say it is a tribute to the history of prostitution in Havana. The sculptor, Roberto Fabelo, installed the piece at Plaza Vieja in 2012 without explanation or context. The artist, who won the country’s 2004 National Arts Award, frequently features nude women with birdlike features in his work.
Downtown is filled with amazing architecture…..
A statue of a protective monk and an indigenous Indian boy at the Church of St. Francis Assisi and Convent…..and a random woman in the bottom left corner….
Below is a statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo, who was a Cuban revolutionary hero. Cespedes, who was a plantation owner in Cuba, freed his slaves and made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started the Ten Years’ War, which ultimately led to Cuban independence.