14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 20 February 2017 – People’s memories of Manzana de Gomez vary according to how old the person is. Cubans over 60 evoke a huge commercial center surrounded by Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate Streets. Those under 40 see it as a dirty place, with sewers running with sewage and destroyed windows. But the youngest see it as a luxury hotel about to open in Havana.
In spite of the delays in the construction, everything indicates that by the middle of this year the repairs of the centrally located building will be finished. The Swiss company Kempinski Hotels has the rights to manage and market the hotel, that already promises to become the most exclusive place in the entire city, with a privileged view of Central Park and a paradise-worthy pool on the top floor.
However, the process of rehabilitation has not been easy, as the deterioration of the building was significant.
The work was plagued by delays and in July 2016, 200 Indian workers were hired to speed up the works
The restoration of the hotel was carried out by the real estate company ALMEST, an entity of the Cuban military consortium GAESA, which assigned the construction work to the French company Bouygues Batimet International. The work was plagued by delays and in July of 2016, 200 Indian workers were hired to speed up the work, according to Reuters.
The French company pays the foreign workers a monthly salary of between 1,500 and 2,000 euros, while Cuban workers receive barely a tenth of that. This situation has generated controversy and critics call the contracting discrimination against nationals.
When the carpet is installed in the Hotel Matanza hallways and its doors are opened for customers, the contrasts that have marked the life of the building will have come around again. The site has been both a commercial center and a building in ruins, a place where foreigners are employed and Cubans work as slaves, accommodations for tourists and place off-limits to Cubans’ wallets.