El Bosque de la Habana aka Havana Botanical Gardens. Back in 1926 the then President of the Republic of Cuba, Colonel Laredo Brú, thought to isolate the banks of the Amendares River and develop a forest for the city of Havana. The lands chosen by the president belonged to Miguel Kohly, José López Serrano, and my grandfather Antonio Soto Castellano, also know as Antoñico, my dad was Antoñiquito and so on...etc.
The procedures of forced expropriation were initiated, and the State took it over. They opened roads, built bridges, buildings, traced paths for horses. Once the project was finished, this paradise was open to the public.
This happened on October 10, 1937. Two days before, but many decades prior to my birthday. This beautiful and healthy region was filled with people who went there for a walk or a picnic under the cool shade of the trees. But this was not going to last long, the successive governments were leaving the Forest of Havana to their fate as if the fate that President Laredo Brú would have had was to give new value to those lands and then return them to their owners. First, there was a lack of adequate vigilance in those places to force decent people not to frequent the Forest. Then the file of compulsory expropriation was lost in no one knows what office of the State or at least someone had enough influence so that their procedures would be delayed months and years.
The idea of building a large park on the banks of Almendares was first managed in 1912. The initiative was launched by the publicist Carlos de Velasco in his magazine Cuba contemporánea. That suggestion did not fall into the void, and at the end of the 20s, President Machado invited Jean Claude Nicolás Forestier, then conservator of the Paris Parks, to Cuba to show the pertinent recommendations to give Havana a modern professional look. The French urban planner conceived the creation of a Great National Park that would have the Almendares and its green surroundings as essential protagonists.
The ambitious project of Forestier would settle on more 2010 hectares and its approximate limits were the Cemetery of Columbus, the Vedado, and the Distribution Coolí, to the north the river Orengo, to the south the Jockey Club and of the Almendares, to the east and the west the Arday, Los Pinos, Miraflores, and La Víbora. Nothing was advanced in this until 1936 when the society of Friends of the city began a strong campaign in favor of the Havana Forest, with less extension than the French urbanist but that perhaps would be anyway the largest park in the world, because it extended to both banks of the Almendares from the mouth to the springs of Vento. It would cover from behind the cemetery, everything that is Nuevo Vedado and reaches the land occupied by the Plaza de la Revolución where the Hermitage of the Catalans was then.
Although the works began in 1937, prompted by a decree by President Laredo Bru, little was done and the gigantic project was reduced to just over 100 hectares. When The Rovolución arrived, the right bank of the river had already become a large residential area and gave space to important public buildings. It was impossible then the execution of the Forest of Havana, but even so, the revolutionary government insisted in 1960 on the creation of the Almendares Park.
It would cover a long strip of the west bank of the river, from the mouth to the Jardines de la Tropical with picnic areas and simple outdoor facilities concentrated in the fundamental under the bridge, which links the Vedado with Marianao and which was built in 1909 and remodeled in the 40s.