Generally, the heyday of the capital is considered to be the 1930s to 50s, back when American tourism was in full force and there was big business to be made here. The mafia had a strong hold, gambling was rampant and prostitution rife. Hemingway used to come on regular visits and even bought a house. It was the ‘place to be’ for Americans and other foreign tourists, and they brought their foreign wealth with them which allowed the capital to thrive.
After the 1959 revolution however, a lot of this changed. Not only did tourism decline, but Castro implemented policies which diverted wealth away from the capital and into the rural areas. He gave the rural people better access to healthcare, implemented literacy programs and sought to improve the lives of the common folk, which up to this point had generally been neglected.
However, as tourism and trade declined because of the blockade by the United States, the wealth that had once abounded in Cuba eventually dried up. Because of this, the buildings and architecture which were once so grand, couldn’t be repaired and were left to decay. You can see signs of this in every nook and cranny of the city. The design of many buildings are left as they were before the revolution, subject only to the passage of time.
Naturally these changes were also felt by the people, and as food became more scarce a food rationing system was implemented. Certain things are still hard to come by, for instance as I was there, I was told that milk was only available to children, retirees and tourists (which I suppose had to be bought on the black market). When eggs or other rationed goods became available, you could see large crowds of people waiting to buy as many as they could, just to tide them over until the next time they would become available again.
Graffiti by 2+2=5