When I last visited Cuba in 2004, I stayed in Havana at the then newly remodeled El Telégrafo Hotel immediately across from el Paseo del Prado, a promenade that runs from el Parque Central to the Malecón by the bay. My parents had often talked about strolling down this 18th century engineering marvel, with its marble floor, bronze lions and lamp posts, explaining how much they enjoyed just sitting on the marble benches that parallel the street.
When I walked el Prado twelve years ago, the floor was too embedded with decades of dirt to show its beauty, and the iron lamp posts and lions were in need of much repair. What a thrill, then, it was to see that now el Paseo del Prado has been brought back to the jewel that it was destined to be!
Although through Cuba's colonial period this promenade received several names, with the island's independence from Spain in 1898 it was renamed el Paseo de Martí after José Martí, Cuba's greatest hero. Still, despite the historic reference, people simply continue to call it "El Prado."
El Paseo del Prado immediately became the center of everything exciting in 18th and 19th century Cuba, and the wealthiest families built mansions on either side of the promenade. Other important buildings and construction began to be erected on either side, expanding into new parts of Havana which I will blog about later.
Recent news on el Paseo is that it was used in May of 2016 by Karl Lagerfeld as a runway to introduce his new cruise fashion collection. For a week this past May, el Paseo became the center of the fashion world as renowned models and actors visited Havana and toured the city in vintage American cars. Even Antonio Castro, one of Fidel Castro's grandsons and an aspiring model, was present at the events.
A startling sight indeed in a country that has rejected wealth as a corruption of society for over fifty years. Wish I had been there...