Parque De La Fraternidad
At first glance, the Parque de la Fraternidad Americana (American Fraternity Park) might not seem like much— and its location surrounded by grander historical monuments assures that it often gets overlooked by tourists. However, in-the-know tourists to Havana don’t make the mistake of passing by this park without a visit.
Always buzzing with activity, American Fraternity Park is the semi-official spot from which to catch a shared taxi from Old Havana to the more southern reaches of the city. For this reason, there’s a constant shuffle of locals coming and going through the park. Additionally, the sheer amount of botero traffic passing through means that American Fraternity Park merits a visit from any lover of old cars—take a seat at the side of the road and watch model after model roll on by.
A Bit of History
The park, or more accurately the group of small parks, was originally utilized by the city of Havana as a military practice range. It was used in this way from 1790 until 1892, when it became a city park. In 1928 it was renamed American Fraternity Park in honour of the sixth Pan-American Conference, held that year there in the city of Havana.
Over the course of the park’s history, a number of interesting historical occurrences have taken place here. Chief among these was the 1856 hot air balloon take-off of the Portuguese inventor Matías Pérez, who disappeared into the sky, never to be seen again. To this day, when something vanishes into thin air, a Cuban might say that it “voló como Matías Pérez” (“flew away like Matías Pérez”).
The park is also noted as the location of the original Labour Day celebration in Cuba, which took place here on May 1st, 1890.
The Tree and Busts of American Fraternity
Perhaps the centrepiece of American Fraternity Park is the Árbol de la Fraternidad Americana (Tree of American Fraternity). This Ceiba tree was planted in another part of the city when the Cuban Republic government was founded and transplanted here in honour of the Pan-American Conference, whose delegates brought soil representing each of their 28 home countries. The tree lives on as a symbol of unity among the countries of the New World.
Other defining feature of the American Fraternity Park are its various busts placed throughout. They depict leaders representative of American progressive thought. These include the liberator Simón Bolívar, indigenous Mexican politician Benito Juárez, and even the U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, responsible for abolishing slavery in that country.
If you’re looking to visit American Fraternity Park and find yourself asking for directions, feel free to drop the word “Americana”—locals often refer to the park simply as “Parque de la Fraternidad.” Alternatively, you can always just walk straight down the Paseo del Prado—the gates, the busts, and the sheer number of old cars coming and going will let you know when you’ve arrived.
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