El Cristo de la Habana
A colossal statue with a controversial past, forgotten for more than 30 years.
In the 1950s, Cuba was governed by a dictatorship under the control of the United States, with Fulgencio Batista as president. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were slowly taking command of the entire island overthrowing power to instate a communist republic. It was a time of great turbulence and uncertainty for the Cuban people.
Amidst this chaos, Batista commissioned a colossal statue representing a Blessing Christ (similar to the famous one in Rio de Janeiro). It was a last-ditch effort to gain popular support, and would have been ready just in time for Christmas celebrations. The statue was a simple but impressive piece made by Jilma Madera, a well known Cuban sculptor. It was made in Italy, carved from Carrara marble, and blessed by Pope Pius XII.
Sadly, bad luck seemed to follow the monument. Two weeks after its inauguration, Fidel Castro and his militants conquered Havana and took command of the island. With religion made illegal and the military zone near the statue under strict control, the Blessing Christ lay forgotten for more than 30 years under a crescent vegetation, until the government reopened the site in the 90s.
These days, the statue can be found in a beautiful park in the “pueblo” of Casablanca, in front of the harbor of Havana. From its hilltop perch you can see an incredible view of the city and the port. The site is a short taxi ride from old Havana (via the tunnel), and is a beautiful 20-min walk from the tourist-filled Morro Castle that dominates the entry to Havana’s harbour. You can also cross the harbour via ferry, climb a little hill, and you will rewarded with the best place in town for your Sunday afternoon excursion.
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