A Neighborhood Dressed in Blue / Rebeca Monzo

“Hard Currency Landlord” — Homes rented to foreigners must post this sign.

A neighborhood dressed in blue.

At the time of the “accident” in 1959, Nuevo Vedado was the latest Havana neighborhood to be developed. Its residents included professionals and famous artists from radio and television. It was an elegant neighborhood, with any number of homes — primarily one or two-story single-family residences — noted for their striking architectural designs, many of which had garnered national and international awards.

Its principal artery, 26th Avenue, was lined with red and yellow acacias (now almost non-existent) and beds of pink and white oleanders, which gave the neighborhood an indescribable beauty. The properties there, now encircled by high fences and imposing ramparts, were demarcated only by perimeter walls not much higher than a foot and a half or borders of small shrubs.

These days the neighborhood is festooned in blue, the color of signs advertising hard currency rental properties. The houses’ current owners, mostly university professors who cannot live on their poverty-level wages and retirees, have resorted to renting out rooms in their homes and apartments.

Nuevo Vedado is home to one of the tourist market’s main transit hubs: Viazul station, whose buses leave daily for Viñales, Varadero, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos. Due to limited parking available for buses in the area, the station cannot meet the high demand, so it is surrounded by private taxis, which offer the same ride for only 5.00 CUC more than the buses with the added advantage that tourists can be picked up at their respective lodgings.

Among the other big tourist attractions are the city’s zoo, Metropolitan Park (Bosque de la Havana), Civic Plaza (now Revolution Plaza), the National Theater, the Colón Cemetery and the newly famous Art Factory (formerly El Cocinero cooking oil factory), the “coolest” place in the city, where famous figures from the worlds of art and culture can regularly be seen.

In addition to all these attractions, we are surrounded by wonderful restaurants, bars and cafes with various options and prices points for every wallet. The result is a better quality of life for the area’s residents thanks to the increased and ongoing influx of tourists.

Rebeca Monzo, 31 March 2017