Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Oratorio de San Felipe Neri (Havana)

                One day while I was aimlessly wandering around Old Havana with no particular agenda, I came across the open doors of what looked like a church. Always happy to enter a place of worship and acquire another post for my blog while educating myself, I discovered that this wasn't a church after all. That is to say, it wasn't operating as a church at this point of it's existence.
                 The original building was erected in 1693 as the church of San Felipe Neri. Today it's known as the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri and houses an Opera Concert Hall. When it first opened it was for the religious order of the 'Congregation of the Oratorians' which was founded in Havana in 1666. During the English occupation of Havana the Oratorians were kicked out in 1762 (after only 69 years) and replaced by the Protestant denomination. The Oratorians were never to return. When the British finally left, the space was taken over by the Order of the Capuchins and then in 1887 the Congregation of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers took over eventually selling the building to Banco del Comercio SA in the amount of $ 268,000 in 1924....and so now it was a bank. It continued to be a bank after the Revolution of 1959, right up until the late 80's.
                  The Office of The Historian of the City of Havana finally took control of the building and in 2004 reopened it as the Oratory of San Felipe Neri offering it's visitors selections of classical and operatic concerts. It's worth a peek inside.

Located on the corner of ObrapĂ­a and Aguiar in Old Havana.

Road to Cueva de Los Portales (Pinar del Rio)

                    The Cuban landscape changes dramatically from one part of the country to the other, Cuba is a very large island. Pinar del Rio province, this side of it, is known for its bumps (mogotes), steep-sided hills made up of limestone sitting on flat land. The terrain where we are headed is generally a hilly drive from Vinales through the town of La Palma and on towards the Parque Nacional La Guira situated along the Cordillera de Guaniguanico mountain range. This is where you will find the Cueva de Los Portales where Che Guevara hung out during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I'll be going back to Cuba next week and during my stay I intend to rent a car and drive a few hours in the other direction to the Bay of Pigs and further to Sancti Spiritus and Santa Clara....and who knows where else. The terrain out that way is completely different, this is Cane Country, here you'll see massive plots of flat land planted with sugar cane. I hope you enjoy the pictures below.

Monday 4 July 2016

Salvador Carbajal Rodriguez (Tobacco Farm) Pinar del Rio

                    Salvador (& his family) and I have been friends for a number of years and I'm proud to have been invited into & onto his dominion. I have watched his family grow through the years and witnessed the changes on the property like the one that's going on at the moment. I'm referring to a project that the government was developing and should be completed called 'La Ruta del Tabaco', translated meaning the Tobacco Route. Cuba recognizes the fact that their tobacco is rated the best in the world by experts and enthusiasts around the why not profit from it in the tourism department. The area of Pinar del Rio already gets a great deal of tourism from aficionados wanting to discover the origin of the cigars they smoke but officials are after the masses that want to see something other than beaches and colonial cities. Therefore a government organized tour encompassing the entire production cycle on the farm level has been set up to link various farms and other strategic points of interest together to form an interesting and educational experience that shows a part of the Cuban heritage that isn't usually seen by the average tourist coming to the island.
                     Salvador has been busy building a large ranchon in the back of his house next to his fields in preparation for the coming of these tours. For those of you who don't know, a ranchon is a thatched roof structure over an eating area, in this case as with many others, with a kitchen capable of churning out typical Cuban fare. It appears to have a capacity for about one hundred people. Salvador has said he's preparing for the tourists that will be stopping at his place as he's one of the stops along the route. I, for one, wish him the best of luck and give him my support all the way. I'm happy he will finally be getting the recognition he deserves. Below are a few pictures from my last couple of visits there.