Portal de Congresos de la UNLP, Congreso Internacional: el modelo beaux arts y la arquitectura en América Latina, 1870-1930

Tamaño de la fuente: 
Towards a Genealogy of Cuban Architecture: Beaux Art and City Beautiful Design in Havana
Joseph Hartman

Última modificación: 2019-09-13


Between 1925 and 1933, the regime of Cuban President-then-Dictator Gerardo Machado y Morales (el machadato) embarked on an ambitious public works campaign to change the face of modern Cuba. Flush with loans from U.S. banks and riding a wave of popular support, the Machado regime quickly set about constructing a highway system to connect the entire island; a capitol building to rival in splendor that of Washington D.C.; and a system of Beaux-Arts parks and parkways in Havana itself, spearheaded by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. Machado sought to use these new public spaces as a representation of his ‘good government.’ Indeed, even after the strongman was ousted in the revolution and coup of 1933, he maintained their significance. “In terms of my political legacy,” the dictator bristled, “save your words and ink. The stone and marble speak for me and mine.” 
But what do they say? Taking Machado at his word, this essay pivots around one central question: how do these urban spaces in Havana ‘speak’ about modern Cuba and the machadato? Employing Forestier’s Beaux-Arts designs for Havana’s parks and parkways, Cuban and U.S. postcards, and photo-journalism, including that produced by U.S. documentary photographer Walker Evans, I argue that the Machado regime’s appropriation of Beaux-Arts and City Beautiful designs – embedded in imperialist and anti-imperialist rhetoric – reify a complex dialogue in modern Havana regarding the genealogy of lo Cubano, “that which is (or is not) Cuban.” While previous scholars have discussed these urban spaces in formal and stylistic terms, this essay seeks to embed Machado’s public works program in a larger political, cultural, and historical discussion involving modern Cuban identity and its relationship to the broader hemisphere. In that discourse, we find a new insight on the practices of heritage in Cuba, and how the notion of cubanidad (distinct from U.S. or French associations) remains relevant to our understanding, judgment, and conservation of those Machado era works into the present.

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