Paseo de Martí
Paseo de Martí, colloquially known as the Prado, is a kilometer-long tree-lined boulevard that slopes southward, uphill, from the harbor mouth to Parque Central.
The beautiful boulevard was initiated by the Marquis de la Torre in 1772 and completed in 1852, when it had the name Alameda de Isabella II. It lay extramura (outside the old walled city) and was Havana’s most notable thoroughfare. Mansions of aristocratic families rose on each side and it was a sign of distinction to live here.
The paseo—the daily carriage ride—along the boulevard was an important social ritual, with bands positioned at regular intervals to play to the colorful parade of volantas (carriages).
French landscape artist Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier remodeled the Prado to its present form in 1929. It sits guarded by eight bronze lions, with an elevated central walkway bordered by an ornate wall with alcoves containing marble benches carved with scroll motifs.
At night it is lit by brass gas lamps with globes atop wrought-iron lampposts in the shape of griffins. Schoolchildren sit beneath shade trees, listening attentively to lessons presented alfresco. An art fair is held on Sundays.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition