In Havana, is it Lenin or Lennon?

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HAVANA - Here is a city where statues of Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon coexist without a second thought. Although, some of the guide books poke fun at the notion that the Lennon statue is more popular with tourists.

Most of the Cubans I asked about it said something like "ho hum." They seem to like them all. But, really, you see a lot more Jose Marti statues.

One interesting story behind the John Lennon statue is his signature round glasses. The sculptor made them so they can be taken off his face. So the glasses have been stolen several times and new pairs had to be made. Now there is a security guard who holds the glasses and puts them on the statue when people want to take pictures. (Unfortunately when we were there the guard was off duty, so no glasses in my picture.)

The statue was unveiled in Havana's Vedado neighborhood in a ceremony on December 8, 2000, by President Fidel Castro. Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban Parliament, said at the event, "This place will always be a testimonial to struggle, a summoning to humanism. It will also be a permanent homage to a generation that wanted to transform the world..."

The Vladimir Lenin statue we visited has been around a bit longer. It was unveiled in August 1924 in Regla, a working-class suburb of Havana. Antonio Borsch, the Socialist mayor of Regla, had the statue built and then planted an olive tree on the cliff above what is now called Lenin Hill. Lenin died in January 1924, and this statue is believed to be the first monument to honor him outside the Soviet Union.

In fact, Regla is a very working-class suburb with a long history of union and revolutionary activity. It is the home of many generations of dock workers and shipbuilders. At the museum on Lenin Hill, they talk about the founding of the first industrial union in Cuba among shipbuilders. To this day Regla is an industrial area with many unions that have their roots going way back to craft guilds. The Communist Party of Cuba was founded in the 1920s and Regla had a strong party organization. In fact, because of its revolutionary traditions, Regla is also known as the "Little Sierra," a reference to the July 26th Movement's revolutionary activity in the Sierra Maestra mountains.

I'm with the Cubans. I really like both monuments.

Photo: Scott Marshall/PW

 

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  • Hail to Lenin!
    Hail to Lennon!

    Posted by Hamid, 07/14/2014 4:44am (5 months ago)

  • Havana is surely the only place in the world with statues of both Lenin and John Lennon. But wherever Havana goes from here, it can never return. To see it in its current fascinating state, you must visit Old Havana.

    Posted by e cigarette, 05/01/2011 7:32am (4 years ago)

  • great article! you know, thinking about Cuba most people don't pay attention to such things as sculptures. I adore Lennon, but it is a surprise for me to learn about his statue there! as for Lenin...well, it seems to be he looks a bit different, but resembles the original) oh I wish i had a chance to see those monuments with my own eyes someday!

    Posted by Tubes Fan, 01/14/2011 5:35am (4 years ago)

  • That is a big Lenin head, so bad it cannot think as the real one
    And Lennon won't sing But the glasses was a nice detail by the sculptor, so you could see his face with or without them. It is a shame those stealing thigs are bound to happen. Her in Argentina they would habe stolen them every single day...

    Posted by Nemo, 12/09/2010 11:39am (4 years ago)

  • Really interesting, I am a big fan of Lennon and I thought this detail of having a guard that keeps Lennon's glasses is quite picturesque! John made 30th anniversary of his tragic death this year, and I have being willing to visit Cuba for a while. Cuba is so interessing and rich on recent story. This is rare, I want to go there definitely and I hope the guard will be there when I take my picture! Maybe I can take one with the guard holding his glasses!
    Congrats for the good post and photos!

    Posted by vCloud Director, 11/22/2010 7:04pm (4 years ago)

  • On a side note, Detroit misses Armando Ramirez (smile)

    Charles Brown

    Posted by Charles, 03/18/2010 2:41pm (5 years ago)

  • It's really great to see that human beings like Lenin were not completely forgotten or despised. At least not completely in Cuba.

    Though we often hear of the difficulties people are facing in Cuba, and how the common citizen has become rather indifferent to the revolution.

    I'd rather not comment on this, because it is a controversial subject. But I think I understand why communism seems to have lost most of its appeal, even though this is very frustrating for me.

    But when you take a look at the capitalist values that have gained momentum with the collapse of communism, you realise that it was in a certain sense a great set back.

    Which takes me back to realise my own impotence against an unforgiving reality.

    But I prefer to believe that the spirit of justice so clearly advertised by men like Lenin will keep inspiring people in this selfish, insensitive, competitive and bureaucratic world.




    Posted by Raninski, 03/18/2010 1:15pm (5 years ago)

  • Both Lenin & Lennon made significant contributions to working class culture. It is nice to see that Cuba recognizes the achievements of these two diverse people.

    Posted by Jim Schaudt, 03/17/2010 8:48pm (5 years ago)

  • A nice report, Scott.
    I reposted it on FB.
    The history of that Lenin statue is illuminating.

    Posted by cord, 03/17/2010 7:43pm (5 years ago)

  • selling records makes you a capitalist?

    how silly can you get?

    rhetoric won't make a revolution - never has

    What's your take on Bill of Rights Socialism? Which rights to you want to deny working people? What rights denied equals socialism in your mind?

    Posted by Scott Marshall, 03/16/2010 6:22pm (5 years ago)

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