Havana’s Botanical Garden Reopens but Without Its Chinese Carp

President Diaz-Canel releasing koi, or carp, in 2019 during the reopening of the Botanical Garden.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 18 October 2021 — After many months, the National Botanical Garden reopened its doors on Sunday. Visitors have to first make a reservation by phone. Entry fees are 10 pesos for adults and 5 for children. The first visitors, encouraged by great fanfare in the official press, found a less exciting experience than was promised.

“The Chinese carp weren’t there. I didn’t see a single one,” says Alian Aramis, a young man who was visiting the park with his family. During a visit in 2019, President Diaz-Canel released the fish, which are actually Japanese, from a tank.

“I was surprised not to see them because before they were always around the wooden grove where people used to feed them. I asked a worker who told me that the caretakers had stolen them during the months the park was closed.”

Food choices are limited: three menus which include a main course of roast pork, pork chops, pork liver, rice with black beans, green salad, a root vegetable, dessert and a soft drink for 300, 200 and 150 pesos respectively. There were also some appetizer and beverage choices. “The food was acceptable and the service was good but how much you spend depends on the person, says Aramis. “I was worried but I didn’t see the missing carp on anyone’s plate,” he jokes.

Although several beverages were available, the ice cream shop was closed. A soft drink in a glass cost 5 pesos and a liter of beer goes for 120. “You could buy limited amounts of Coral soda for 3 pesos and bread roll with mayonnaise. If there were six people at your table, you could buy ten packets of low-quality candy eggs for 12 pesos a packet, 4 bags of Pellys chips for 35 pesos a bag and bottle of rum for 325 pesos, if I remember correctly,” says Aramis.

“We were able to visit the Japanese Garden. It’s very peaceful, very nice, but several plant viewing pavilions were closed due to repairs,” reports Aramis, who regrets that the children were not able to enjoy the amusement park to the fullest because several rides, though in place, had not yet been secured to their floors and  could not be used.

One of the Botanical Gardens’ main attractions is the Canopy, or tirolesa. Installed at the beginning of last year and opened the following August, the ride is the first of its kind in Havana.*

“I tried to make a reservation but it was no use. They told me it’s booked every day for the entire month of October,” complains Aramis, who could only observe the few lucky souls suspended from a cable beyond. They flew over the almost 800-meter, five-segment course for the price of 300 pesos.

*Translator’s note: The website describes it as “a pulley suspended by cables mounted on a slope or incline…designed so that users are propelled by gravity, sliding from the top of a hill to the bottom on a cable.” 


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