Havana’s Anti-Imperialist Platform is Being Demolished to Build Office Buildings

On Monday afternoon heavy equipment had already knocked down some of the concrete columns of the structure. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Havana, 21 May 2019 — The Anti-Imperialist Platform, a symbol of Fidel Castro’s Battle of Ideas, will be replaced by something much more prosaic: two two-story buildings designed to house offices. The construction manager and several workers involved in the dismantling of the monument told 14ymedio that this is the future that awaits the emblematic place, the dismantling of which has been a topic of conversation in recent days.

On Monday afternoon heavy equipment had already knocked down some of the concrete columns of its structure. One of the brigade chiefs who has worked there since last week said the order is to demolish everything, including the “Hill of Flags.” “We ourselves spent nine days lifting the arches into place, and now they told us we had to come and tear them down,” he explained.

The José Martí Anti-Imperialist Platform of Havana was built in 2000 and was known by Cubans as “the protestódromo” (protest-dome) because in its beginnings it served as the venue for the events and marches that demanded the return of Elián González to the island.

Later it was used for concerts and political events of all kinds. Its arches were directed to what was then the United States Interests Section, now the Embassy, and in fact one of the reasons it was built was to cover the illuminated sign that the US building had installed on its facade which operated as a news ticker, scrolling world news items to inform Cuban citizens about events censored by Cuban television.

The “Mount of Flags” was added six years after the creation of the bandstand, and had 138 flagpoles and the same number of flags. Initially the flags were black with a white star in the middle, meant to represent Cubans killed by terrorism. Later Cuban flags were flown. It was erected over what was previously a parking lot in front of the US Interests Section and was inaugurated on February 6, 2006 by Fidel Castro.

Thus, the set was finalized for an intense political campaign that included everything from weekly public events, known as Tribunas Abiertas, to the “social workers” program.

The Mount of Flags was added six years after the creation of the Platform. (14ymedio)

The worker engaged on Monday in the dismantling said that “the sculpture of José Marí carrying the child stays.” There is no official information on the reasons for the demolition, nor for the construction plans. Nor do the neighbors of site have any knowledge about the actions.

The Mount of Flags was added six years after the creation of the platform.

“They didn’t tell us anything here, one day we got up and there they were, knocking down everything,” said a resident in the area.

The Platform was built in 80 days after 24-hour days in which almost 2,000 workers participated, including technicians, architects and engineers from various provinces of the country.

The work included vertical steel towers and arches of the same material placed on the site from front to back. The towers and arches are mounted on two-meter high concrete foundations that are already being demolished. The floor, conceived with the colors of the Cuban flag — red, blue and white — is also being removed.

After the most political period of the use of the platform, some important concerts were held there, including Manu Chao, the Air Supply duo, Calle 13, Olga Tañón, Audioslave and, more recently, the packed concert of DJ Diplo and Major Lazer.

The monument’s proximity to the sea required regular maintenance of the huge arches and the rest of the infrastructure, but over the years these repairs were spaced out and the Anti-imperialist Platform quickly deteriorated and showed the damages caused by the sun and salt spray.

In September of last year, a report published on the Cubanet site showed the poor condition of the dressing rooms and the structure of the stage. The weather phenomena of recent years also contributed to the destruction of a work that symbolized an era of continuous calls to attend official demonstrations.

Photos of the “Protestodrome” during a concert in January 2008:

The red lights in the middle of the photo are the news ticker on the U.S. Interest Section behind the site. The non-controversial news being scrolled that evening was that the mountain climber Edmund Hillary had died. The flagpoles are empty.
A longer view. This event was a free concert but not a major one.  The Malecon and the ocean are to the right.

Note: See subsequent article with updated information about the State’s motivations here.


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