Robaina's plantation

Thursday 30 January 2020

Casa de Asia (Museum) Habana Vieja

                   This small Museum named the 'Casa de Asia', dedicated to Asian cultures, was inaugurated on June 24, 1997. Located on Mercaderes Street, it makes for an easy visit while touring the downtown core of Havana. The building that houses the museum was constructed in 1668. It was always a dwelling that had a connection to the church. Anyone who had lived there was linked to religious life.
                 They used to call the house the 'Capellania' (Chaplaincy...the office or position of a member of the clergy attached to a private chapel), rent was turned over to the church. During the 19th century the house was called 'El Conventillo', as you can see from the 3rd picture I posted, the narrow hallway with many doors reminded one of a convent.
                By the late 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's, the space within the building began to be used for different purposes, evidently there were signs of commercial activity. Eventually it was rented out to families which transformed the structure into an apartment complex. That was the condition in which the building was in during the 1990s when the restoration began.
              The first pieces that were donated were by many who were either descendants or admirers of Asian culture. Several collections have been donated over the years one of which was quite special, the one owned by the late Fidel Castro. It contains gifts he received on his many trips abroad, all are from the 20th century. Of all the pieces contained within the museum, there are more than 1,000 items in total. The ground floor contains revolving exhibitions and the upper floor is for the permanent collections. The countries that are best represented are China, Japan and India, however, there are pieces from more than a dozen nations all over Asia.
              Some of the items on display are; a ceremonial Japanese kimono, musical instruments, marble carvings, ancient weapons, works of silver, gold & bronze, ceramic vases, urns, decorative porcelain tableware, several statues & many statuettes, ornate furniture and intricately carved Chinese cabinets....I'm sure I missed something. They are even trying to restore murals that they found evidence of, some of which had been accomplished when I visited.
             If you're walking along Calle Mercaderes, pop in for a quick visit. It shouldn't take too long to go through all the exhibits, that's up to you, it took me about 20 minutes and I took quite a few pictures.
            In case you weren't aware, Asian culture, especially Chinese, is deeply rooted within Cuban culture. Chinese immigration to Cuba started in 1847 when Chinese contract workers were brought to work in the sugar fields. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan during the subsequent decades to replace and/or work alongside African slaves. After completing an eight-year contract they obtained their freedom, some Chinese immigrants settled permanently in Cuba,
          Some 5,000 immigrants from the U.S. came to Cuba during the late 19th century to escape the discrimination present at the time. Another smaller wave of Chinese immigrants also arrived during the 20th century, some as supporters of the communist cause during the Cuban revolution and others as dissidents escaping the authorities in China. In total, 120,000 Cantonese 'coolies' (all males) entered Cuba under contract for 8 years. Only 1% of the Chinese population that migrated to Cuba were women.
          The Chinese Cubans fought in the Cuban war of independence on the side of independence from Spain. Many fled after the start of Fidel Castro's rule but some Chinese stayed behind. Only about a few hundred native Chinese live in Cuba today (numbers vary) with an estimate of a little over 100,000 Cubans having some degree of Chinese ancestry. Havana's Chinatown (Barrio Chino de La Habana) is one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in Latin America.

Casa de Asia
Calle Mercaderes #111
Entre Obispo y Obrapia, Habana Vieja
Opening hours: 9am-5pm Tues-Sat; 9am-1pm Sun

Japan 20th Century

Doll Japan 20th Century

Japan 19th Century

Porcelain China 20th Century

Porcelain China 19th Century

Ceramic China 20th Century

Ceramic China 20th Century

Ceramic Vietnam 20th Century

Ceramic Mongolia 20th Century

Ceramic Vietnam 20th Century

Gold Laminated India 20th Century

Porcelain Japan 19th Century

Porcelain Japan 18th Century

Marble Vietnam 20th Century

Japan 20th Century

Japan 19th Century

La Vitrola (Restaurant) Habana Vieja Jan.2020

                  We always come back to this place because it's always consistently good for our tastes. It's set up like a North American Roadhouse style restaurant with all kinds of paraphernalia that almost seems like the props came from the USA. In actuality Cuba was basically an American satellite before the last revolution and all objects were once typically what you would find in Cuba at that time. The menu is not that complicated, a mixture of North American favourites with a bunch of Cuban standards. For the not so adventurous Americans you can have; both Chicken & Beef Burgers, Tuna Sandwiches, French Fries, Chicken Cordon Bleu and Pork Ribs....and for typical Cuban dishes you can get; Ropa Vieja, Cuban Sandwich, a variety of rices, fried Pork Cubes, Tostones and Ham & Cheese sandwich among many other items. I have yet to have a bad meal here, I may have liked one thing more than another but I've never been disappointed. Be aware, the dishes are quite large and if you order an appetizer and main course you'll have difficulty finishing your meal.
                As I said, the ambiance is that of a time long ago and you can, as I have, wander around the room and find a variety of interesting gadgets and pictures of a time when Cuba was not that much different than North America. There's always a band playing typical traditional Cuban music....I love it. The prices are a little more than some places tucked away from the main drag but that doesn't mean it's expensive, the bill for 2 of us is never much more than $20. You'll find it at a prime location at one of the corners of Plaza Vieja....I think it's killing the business of the "La Taberna de La Muralla" that's a few meters away (it's about time someone puts them in their place).
                Friendly and attentive service, smoking allowed inside and outside, be prepared for the musicians to try to sell you a CD. I always ask the band to play one of my favourite Cuban songs and give them a nice tip in lieu of buying a disc. If you're in the area doing some sightseeing, give them a try, I'm almost sure you won't be disappointed.

Mon. to Sun.
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

La Vitrola
Muralla No.151 e/ San Ignacio y Cuba
(+53) 5285 7111
Cash Only Accepted
Wheelchair access
Smoking Section Indoors & Outdoors

Eperlan de Pescado (fish strips)  $8.00

Costilla de Cerdo Frita (fried Pork Ribs)  $7.00