14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 18 May 2023 — The laughter of the children and the noise of the playground were heard before reaching the corner of 23rd and 18th in El Vedado, but since Jalisco Park closed its doors, several years ago, the whole area has become silent. Now, the recreation center has passed into the hands of a private company that seeks to restore its former splendor and attract families again.
Where the carousel used to go around with the horses, the small rollercoaster stood and colorful boats floated, currently there is only the empty land on which the new attractions will be placed. “This is going to be Hollywood style,” jokes an employee who this Thursday guarded the enclosure, located a few feet from the Colón Cemetery.
The worker confirmed to 14ymedio that the management of the emblematic amusement park has passed into private hands, and it is expected that in the coming months the new apparatus will begin to arrive. At the moment, a brigade of masons is repairing the exterior walls that had been deteriorating from abandonment and lack of investment.
“They are going to bring crazy cars, other very modern attractions, and it will keep its original name,” adds the employee, who is optimistic about the transition to private managers. “The children are going to rediscover this place that is very well located and before was always full.”
Nearby neighbors also welcome the fact that a private company will take care of the recreational park. “Everything in this neighborhood revolved around this place, but since it closed the area has become very depressed. Before, near Jalisco Park you could eat anything from pizza to a snack, and now you have to go further to find anything,” says Josué, 26 years old and born in the neighborhood.
The park also had a small square for shows with clowns and magicians. “That was the way they earned their living and when they closed those people were out of work,” explains the young man. “Recreatur [Recreation and Tourism Company] ran the park and let it die because it didn’t have the resources to repair it. The equipment was very old and broke little by little.”
When the original attractions shut down, Recreatur rented part of the space to self-employed workers “who brought inflatable dolls and were also the ones who sold the food because the state cafeteria also ran out of supplies,” Josué recalls.
It wasn’t the first time that Jalisco Park languished. In the ’80s the recreational center also was closed for a long time, and the history of its decrepitude inspired the singer-songwriter Carlos Varela to compose a song. “They wanted to derail the rollercoaster, for all the slanders of parental authority, and then the father took my little friend to ride the boat and never returned,” says the song, one of the most popular of the troubadour.
In the ’90s the place reopened its doors but without several of its original attractions. However, it was always very busy due to its central location, which contrasted with the more glamorous Coney Island, currently known as Coco Island and located in the municipality of Playa, or the distant Lenin Park on the outskirts of the city.
“The families made the tour, eating at the Cinecitta pizzeria, passing by Jalisco Park and then ending up with the children at the movies,” evokes another neighbor. “On weekends this was full. My children have very good memories of this place, although when you look closely it is a small space for an amusement park.”
Despite the fact that the name of the small private company that will manage the recreation center has not been made public, the neighbors point to the owner of a nearby restaurant as the main investor. “The question that everyone is asking is how much will it cost to bring the children here,” adds one of the people interviewed.
“Every time they repair something, they put it in foreign currency or make it very expensive.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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