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Havana Cuba's The Museum of the Revolution

© by Mike Keenan

Eternal flame memorial, photo by Mike Keenan

Eternal flame memorial, photo by Mike Keenan


When Barack Obama recently created an opening gesture to ease (minutely) the almost five decades-long U.S. embargo of Cuba, Castro's Communist Cuba did not respond. When the Organization of American States welcomed Cuba back into the fold, Castro, mimicking Groucho Marx, (no relative of Karl) proudly declined membership.

As a consequence, Canada currently is the preferred number one tourist entity in Cuba, followed closely by the United Kingdom, but the United States, only 90 miles away, would likely swamp Cuba if restrictions suddenly ceased.

Americans will have difficulty with a top attraction in Havana, The Museum of the Revolution which sits directly across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. (open daily 10 am - 5 pm; $5 CUC, $2 CUC extra for guided tour)

cretins corner Deliberately housed in the sumptuous presidential palace of the US-favoured 1950s dictator, General Fulgencio Batista, the museum outlines all phases of the revolution, often in awkward fashion, particularly in the main building. Visitors work their way down from the top third floor. Rooms are grouped chronologically into historical stages, or etapas, from Etapa Colonial to Etapa de la Revolucion.

The content gets tiresome, but the building itself, erected between 1913 and 1917, captures one's attention with the accoutrements of royalty, the gold-encrusted Salon Dorado and the ornate furnish-ings of the Presidential Office, used by all presidents from 1920 to 1965.

My favourite part is the area located outside of the museum in the fenced-in gardens of the palace. Here sits the Granma Memorial, the huge boat which carried Castro and his men from Mexico to Cuba to foment revolution, preserved entirely within a giant glass case. Grouped around the boat is a fascinating collection of military vehicles, whole or in bits employed during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

American visitors on their way outside may not be amused when they turn "Rincon de los cretins" aka cretins corner, a nasty graphic memorial to the three kingpins of the revolution.

George Bush is portrayed as a Roman Emperor complete with toga and laurel on his head with the caption: "Thanks, cretin because you've helped us to consolidate our revolution." Ronald Reagan is next wearing a cowboy hat and red bandana: "Thanks you cretin for helped us (sic) to strengthen the revolution." And finally, Fulgencio Batista in a military outfit replete with long black boots: "Thanks you cretin for helping us to make the revolution."

A caption beside the B-26 reads: "Remains of B-26 bomber airplane: with US registration, disguised by the acronym of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. It was shot down near the Australian sugar mill during the Bay of Pigs actions in 1961. The corpse of one of the two crew members, Captain Thomas Willard Ray of the US Air Force remained in Cuba during 18 years. The United States Government did not make the official arrangements to take him back since it would prove to the world their direct participation in the aggression on the island. The remains were sent back in 1979 during James Carter's term as President."

Next to that item, we are greeted with: "Turbine of the U-2 spy plane: piloted by Commander Rudolph Anderson of the US Air Force. It was shot down while violating Cuban air space on October 16, 1962 during the so-called October Crisis."

Next: "Launching Ramp: type CM-II from the rocket that shot down the U-2 American spy plane was launched on October 27, 1962 during the Missile Crisis," followed by: "Pirate boat: used by the invaders to carry twelve or thirteen men and weapon from the Mother vessels to the Cuban shores during the mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs, in April, 1961."

Castro's tank reads: "T-34 tank: used by Fidel Castro during actions at the Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs). From this tank, he shot twice at the Houston vessel, one of the US ships that supported the enemy forces. Unable to hit it, he then shot from an SAU-100 self-propulsion canon with a longer range."

There's more: "'Sea-Fury MK-11:' fighter bomber single-seater airplane made by Hawker Aircraft Co. in 1947 and given to the Batista government in 1958. It was used in several combats during the mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs on April 17 and 18th in 19061."

And completing the display is a King-Fisher airplane, a Pontiac car (for running weapons), a Fargo truck, a tractor/armoured vehicle and the Land Rover Jeep used by commander, Fidel Castro.

Cuba smartly re-branded itself as the home of sun, salsa and rum, a top tourist attraction in the Caribbean, where streets are clean and safe and the people friendly, but people are also justifiably proud of their past and their hard-won independence. As both Fidel and Raul Castro age and Mr. Obama reaches out slowly to former enemies, huge volumes of tourist money hang in the balance.

Bullet holes in sign, photo by Mike Keenan  captured plane, photo by Mike Keenan  Castros jeep, Granma boat in background, photo by Mike Keenan  Castros jeep, photo by Mike Keenan  Museum marble entrance, photo by Mike Keenan  tail section, US aircraft, photo by Mike Keenan



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Mike Keenan is a travel columnist for Troy Media. He produces a travel podcast - http://whattravelwriterssay.libsyn.com/ accessible on iTunes and Stitcher Radio and has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of five thousand viewers.

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If you go
Havana is a historic and culturally significant city located on the island of Cuba. Cuba, officially known as the Republic of Cuba, is a small island nation located in the Caribbean. While relatively small in size, it is one of the larger Caribbean islands. Cuba is surrounded by a number of bodies of water, including the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. The temperature and currents of these waters can affect the weather across the island, but generally the entire island enjoys a sub-tropic climate.
Cuba's capital city, Havana is located on the island's northern coast, and is the cultural, economic and political capital of Cuba. While Havana is located on the Gulf of Mexico, the city's main tourist attractions are the historic buildings and cultural sights in central Havana. However, the high temperatures, particularly during summer, encourage many visitors to Havana to spend time on the nearby white-sand beaches.
Havana is located near the Equator, and as a result experiences a consistently hot and humid climate. The city has 2 distinct seasons, the dry season, taking place during the northern hemisphere's winter and spring, and rainy season, which occurs during the northern hemisphere's summer and autumn. Therefore, the dry season normally lasts from November to the end of April, whereas the rainy season goes on through May to October.
Havana also experiences trade winds, which help to cool things down in the steamy capital. While planning to travel to Havana you only need to carry summer clothes as it is warm and hot throughout, you will also need to carry mosquito repellent and skin care products, it would be advisable to buy these products from home as there are not many brands available in Havana and the ones which are, cannot be trusted or relied upon.

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Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attractions-g147271-Activities-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

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