Entering the Hotel Raquel in the heart of Old Havana many are surprised by the beautiful Jewish paintings, sculpture and furniture in the lobby. The original building achieved its present Art Nouveau style in 1908 and much of the recent stunningly renovated interior pays homage to the Biblical Rachel, beloved wife of Jacob.
This small boutique hotel contains a stone, brought especially from the hills of Jerusalem, the city considered holy by the three main religions in the world. Near the stone is Diaspora or Los Olvidados (The Forgotten), an oil painting by famous Cuban painter Victor Manuel, which depicts the agony of the Jewish passengers on the Saint Louis that anchored off Havana’s coast in 1939, but never reached Cuban land.
Among the other masterpieces decorating the hotel are the oil Raquel by Ernesto García Peña and the soaring stained-glass atrium lobby skylight by artist Rosa María de la Terga. In addition, there are two watercolours, Raquel y Jacob, by José Luís Fariñas, as well as paintings throughout the hotel by young Cuban creators like Yaylín Pérez Zamora, Jorge Oliva and Alexis López.
The still life tables beautifying the rooms are the work of artist Natalia Marzoa.
Besides the quantity of art work, making it a sort of house-museum, the Hotel Raquel continues the Jewish ethnic theme with members of the small but active local Jewish community serving, among traditional Cuban fare, borscht and latkes in the restaurant.