Wrapped in stories of intellectuals, society balls and the development of a very cosmopolitan city, Havana's Hotel Plaza, one of the most central tourist facilities in Cuba, becomes 100 years old in 2009 and will celebrate with an ambitious and enjoyable program for guests and professionals of the industry.
The hotel's director, Iván Nicolás Melo, said the idea is to cebrate during the entire year of 2009 due to the cultural and historic relevance of the event.
On January 3, 1909, the Plaza, occupying an entire block, was opened and on that same date this year a commemorative plaque was unveiled and a ball was held on the fifth floor, just as at the inauguration. There were some slight differences since the inauguration ball was a charity ball with high society members of the time attending, and this time it was the hotel staff and regular guests who occupied the dance floor.
Some other events related to the anniversary have already taken place, including the presentation of the Fernando Ortiz magazine on the anniversary, a cocktail contest, a festival of art amateurs and a press conference. Among the list of celebratory activities yet to come is the recovery of the outdoor porches to offer coffee and buñuelos (sweet fritters made with manioc), as in the early days, and a culinary festivity "My roots and my people". The overall idea is to recapture the values and proposals of earlier times. Besides the ceremonies and events on January 3, a painting exhibit and a cultural gala at the National Fine Arts Museum Theatre also took place.
In the 1936-44 era, the halls of the Plaza sheltered the most significant representatives of Cuban intellectuals, when the Latin American Culture Society chose it for its meetings, attended by such important figures as writers Fernando Ortiz, Mirta Aguirre, Lezama Lima, Ángel Augier and Dulce María Loynaz.
Part of the area of the city founded in 1519, the area where the hotel was eventually built was covered by vegetation in the year 1667, but in 1895 the Pedroso family built a mansion on the spot. The building was the seat of the Cuban newspaper Diario de la Marina from 1898 to 1906 and became the Plaza Hotel in 1909. After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the building was repaired several times until its 1991 rejuvenation.
Among its distinguished historic guests have been Russian ballet dancer Ana Pavlova (1915 and 1917), Cuban chess genius José Raúl Capablanca, physicist Albert Einstein and US baseball star Babe Ruth Today the hotel has 188 rooms, including 15 suites and 16 double rooms. The furniture includes famous antiques and the paintings hanging on the walls are signed by artists such as Esteban Valderrama de la Peña, Esteban Domech, Federico Siroca and Juan Gil García, among other Cuban and Spanish painters.
The hotel boasts one restaurant-buffet, the Fausto Bar and a roof garden on the fifth floor. The Plaza already has a drink honouring the anniversary: the refreshing "Centenario Plaza" is red, blue and white, the colours of the Cuban flag.