14ymedio, Havana, May 23, 2019 — Two days after 14ymedio reported that Havana’s Anti-Imperialist Platform is to be dismantled to make way for office buildings, the vice-president of the Provincial Administrative Council, Orestes Llanes Mestres, confirmed the demolition but noted that new construction on the site is aimed at preserving its historic symbolism.
The official assured Cubadebate that “under no circumstance” is the site to be eliminated and that it will continue to serve solely as “the pre-eminent location for the fight against imperialism.”
Authorities note that the Platform was seriously damaged by heavy waves and flooding during Hurricane Irma in September 2016, which impacted all its facilities, including meeting and dressing rooms as well as several of the masts which make up the Wall of Flags.
The decision was made to renovate the monument as part of commemorations marking Havana’s 500th anniversary.
“A complete rehabilitation of the Platform is being planned, with a new format and structure, which will provide greater durability and protection against any weather events. While it has withstood these for almost 20 years, it has been severely impacted by [its proximity to] the sea,” he explained.
When the current demolition is complete, the construction phase will commence. Two one-story buildings (not a pair of two-story buildings as 14ymedio had previously reported) will be built to house dressing rooms, meeting rooms and other spaces, with a connecting corridor to provide access to the Wall of Flags. A statement indicates that the buildings will sit atop a one-meter tall base to protect them from flooding and will, predictably, include parking facilities.
One of the most significant changes will be to the Wall of Flags, where concrete will replace metal as the predominate material in order to mitigate the corrosive effects caused by the site’s proximity to the sea.
Orestes Llanes told official news outlets that changes to the Platform represent a renewed ideological commitment, especially now that the tensions between Washington and Havana have increased with the advent of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“At no point will the platform be anything other than what it was conceived to be: a public space par excellence for the struggle against imperialism, a site where we have waged great battles and celebrated great victories,” he said.
Havana’s José Martí Anti-Imperialist Platform, known to locals as the Protestódromo due to its original function as the main venue for marches and demonstrations demanding the return of Elián González, was built in 2000. It has subsequently been used for a wide variety of concerts and political events.
In the past its bullhorns were directed at what was then the United States Interests Section, now the American Embassy. In fact, one of the reasons it was built was to block the public’s view of the illuminated sign that the U.S. government installed on its embassy’s facade to broadcast world news that Cuban television had censored. The plaza’s 138 black flags were intended to obscure Washington’s messages.
“From this site we will continue to defend the work and thinking of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro. And the monument to José Martí will be immovable,” he emphasized.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, the National Applied Research Company, the Physical Planning Institute and the City of Havana Design Projects Company have participated in the execution of the project.
The work is being carried out with funding from the CAP, which will also allocate funds to renovate adjacent buildings such as the Hola Ola Technological Recreation Center.
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