Goodbye ‘Moscow’, Welcome to the Kremlin

Demolition of the remains of the building that housed the Moscow restaurant, this Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 24 May 2022 — It seemed unbeatable. The years of splendor and subsequent decades of decline, but the physical survival of the building made many Havanans believe that the plot located at the intersection of 23rd Avenue and P Street would forever be an imposing mass. This week the city says goodbye to the local Moscow restaurant, synonymous with the end of an era.

There is only one piece left and it is rare. A fragment of the building that once condensed the most mundane pleasures and the fiercest parameterization. All in one. There has been no structure in this city that can summarize so much: relaxation and sobriety; the Cuban self-confidence and the tough Soviet muscle. In the same place where the Montmartre cabaret was located, where Rita Montaner and Josephine Baker performed, borscht soup and fear were established. Then came nothing.

A fire put an end to the stage that began after Fidel Castro came to power and the nationalizations that followed. Then, the building ceased to house the famous Montmartre casino and cabaret. In the late 1960s the place was renamed Moscow, a nod to the Soviet Union. Bolero nights came to an end and the space was filled with dishes of Solyanka soup and Russian salad. Later the flames came.

Now, three decades after a fire extinguished the brightness of the central location, its ruins have become a headache for the closest neighbors and the city authorities. The news of its demolition fell like a balm among the desperate residents of the vicinity. But nothing turned out as planned. Neither was the ruin so easy to tear down, nor was the city the same as before its dismantling was announced.

Now, photos taken from nearby balconies have been given new angles, but the city isn’t ready to celebrate such frivolities. People complain about the speed of clearing an area when it is going to become a hotel zone. It has been known that an accommodation will be erected in the place that will be managed by the Cuban company Gran Caribe and the Spanish company Be Live.

A few meters away, there are tenements housing dozens of families that are about to collapse due to lack of maintenance. Calle 23 is, without a doubt, part of the heart of a cake much desired by tourist companies and the military conglomerate that manages a good part of tourism in Cuba. But nobody knows if the place of the Montmartre cabaret will give way to a zone of freedom and creativity, as it was in its beginnings, or if it will return to the control of a quiet and nervous Kremlin.


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