My first research trip in Cuba for seven years, studying the progress of Cuba's tourism industry development since that time and reconnecting with Cuban research colleagues.
My research colleague--from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas--and I returned with new data, pictures, field observations, and plans for a new paper and possibly a new book.
The Hotel Riviera
Completed just before the Revolution, financed with Mob money from Las
Vegas under the direction of Meyer Lansky. The Easter egg in front is the
Riviera under new management, 1959
View from the balcony: fishing boats on the Gulf
See why this is one of my favorite hotels in the world? My research colleague & I were as nice as possible to the front desk clerk, and she upgraded us to the top floor, balcony overlooking the Gulf, next to the Presidential Suite. Life lesson: it pays to be nice to people, anywhere in the world.
However, the hotel has caught up in a complex political battle in the last few years and obviously hasn't received much investment or attention. Here's my colleague crawling
through the window to the balcony since the door is broken & boarded up.
Havana skyline from the balcony: Vedado, the upscale district before the Revolution and still where most of the local action is. In front is a shopping mall, including a supermarket and a jazz club: purchases only in foreign currency or its local equivalent, the Cuban Convertible Unit (CUC). The distant blue building on the right is the Havana Libre (Free Havana): the former Havana Hilton, also completed just in time for the Revolution.
My archaeological discovery of the expedition: I snuck into the dark, closed former Riviera casino and discovered Meyer Lansky's former casino bar, including what seem to be the original bar, furniture, and artwork. Now I know what it was like to find King Tut's tomb.