THE BLOG

Will Cuba Survive the Americanization of Havana?

04/03/2015 03:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2015

Americans are flocking to Cuba by the tens of thousands this year. Next year it may be millions.

The architecture of Old Havana has lasted hundreds of years, but will it survive the onslaught of tourists and rampant commercialism that so despoils other Latin American capitals?

Most Americans will marvel at the magnificently preserved pre-revolutionary building and the colonial architecture dating back centuries.

But they will also see thousands of decrepit structures that are falling down and badly kept. In other cities, these crumbling vacant lots, behind magnificent facades, would be quickly replaced by modern monstrosities.

What most visitors do not understand is that the Castro brothers have treated Old Havana as an archeological and historic site -- the finest and largest example of Colonial architecture in the Americas.

UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982.

The government does not have the money to restore all the old buildings at this time, so they are forced to leave them vacant and crumbling until they get around to it. They are making great progress -- The Plaza Vieja is completely restored on all sides with splendid arch-covered walkways all around.

But other buildings are not so fortunate. The government is also committed to keeping many of the poor people who live in the historical district in their homes while restoration goes on around them. This is an anomaly among historic districts around the world.

Cuba 2015

Email: Blake Fleetwood
Twitter: @blakefleet