Capitol of Havana, undisputed tourist attraction
Text Roberto F. Campos / Photos: Roberto Campos and Ferval
One of the most interesting tours in Havana is a visit to the Capitol of Havana, which, while still undergoing renovation, already hosts many pilgrims from all over the planet. A site built to house the Cuban Parliament (National Assembly of the Popular Power), it is of incomparable beauty and has a history that all should get to know.
The guides are definitive in their explanations about the site, and reiterate that although the Capitol’s remodeling is still in progress, this is an essential place.
In this regard, they explain that over 300 people arrive daily to visit the rooms open to the public, especially many foreign tourists.
With its dome marking the silhouette of a modern and cosmopolitan city, the site also has a diamond marker of the kilometre zero of the country’s roads, symbol of the development of transportation (copy of the original). Designed originally to house the Congress of the Republic, it went through several occupations, including the headquarters of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA).
The property occupies an area of 388,700 square meters between the streets Paseo del Prado, Dragones, Industria and San Jose, and was inaugurated on May 20, 1929. Right around it, there are places of interest for tourists, such as the Royal Tobacco Factory of Partagás, Central Park, La Fuente de La India (Fountain of the Indian Woman) and the Prado Promenade (or José Martí Promenade, in honor of the Cuban National Hero).
Its construction lasted three years, two months and days, and the works were directed by the architect Eugenio Raynieri Piedra. 8,000 people participated in its building and the total value reached 17 million pesos.
Historians note that until the end of the 50s of the last century, the Houses of Representatives and the Senate functioned in both wings of the building. The dome, staircase and gardens constitute a postcard of Havana. The two bronze images that guard the main entrance are the work of the Italian Angelo Zanelli. The sculpture on the left means work and on the right the virtue of protection.
However, the interior also astonishes visitors, because after ascending the 55 steps of the initial staircase, one discovers wonders. There are three large doors, also in bronze, with 10 bas-relief paintings representing the national history. Immediately after, one arrives at the most famous place globally: the Hall of the Lost Steps, with its eclectic style, and the centre, the aforementioned diamond that marks the kilometre zero of the roads of Cuba. In that same room is the statue of the Republic - also Zanelli’s work (49 tons in weight and 17 meters in height), now under renovation.
Other added charms of the building include the Baire, Bolívar, Baraguá, Yara, Jimaguayú and Martí Rooms, the Camilo Cienfuegos Chamber, or the Stairs of Honor, references to celebrities and sites in the history of the island and the Americas, in addition to a tomb to unknown mambises. The mambises were the fighters of two wars against Spanish colonialism.
Adorned with galleries featuring figures, marble, Venetian mirrors, precious woods such as mahogany, and Rococo silhouettes, from the Italian Renaissance or Napoleonic France, its beauty undoubtedly invites meditation and ignites the desire to spend some time visiting it.