EL CAPITOLIO, LA HABANA
HAVANA'S ICONIC CAPITOLIO
The Cuban Capitol building is one of Havana’s most iconic and emblematic structures. It is located between Old Havana and Central Havana, and Prado, Dragones, and San Jose street. It’s resemblance to the U.S. Capitol is not by accident, both buildings were inspired by the Pantheon in Paris. It was built between 1926 and 1929 during the presidency of Gerardo Machado and was the seat of the Cuban legislature until it was closed by the current Cuban government in 1959. The building, which is two-hundred-seventy-nine feet high, was Cuba’s tallest when it was constructed, and for many years after. According to legend it was specifically built to be a few feet taller than the U.S. Capitol.
For thirty years the building housed a twenty-five carat diamond, which had belonged to Russian Czar Nicholas II, and was considered the largest in the world. The spot where the diamond is embedded in the floor marked kilometro cero, zero kilometer, in Cuba, the starting point from which highway distances on the island were and are still measured today. The diamond disappeared for several months during the presidency of Ramon Grau San Martin, who mysteriously had it returned to him and who then returned it to its home. The diamond that is currently in El Capitolio is a replica, and the real one is supposed to be stored at Cuba’s National Bank. Next to the replica diamond stands the 49-ton Statue of the Republic, which represents the nation of Cuba. It is the third largest indoor statue in the world and was modeled after a Cuban woman by the sculptor. El Capitolio also houses the monument dedicated to the unknown soldier of Cuba’s wars of national liberation.
Guided tours of the Capitol building began this year, they are forty-five minutes long and available Monday through Friday from 9am through 4pm.
By Dina GomGar