On March 14, 1958, America imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government — the first major action taken by the US — not too different to the sanctions on Cuba still in effect today. But by that time, the ad below — touting the tallest, largest hotel in Havana, “the glamorous, gay capital of Cuba” — had almost certainly gone to press. (It appeared among the pages of US News & World Report in the issue dated March 28, 1958.)
While that month’s actions would not have had a instant impact on the allure of the new Habana Hilton, major change was in the works. Indeed, within one year, the hotel went from a being a tourist destination to a dictator’s command center.
As noted in the book Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground, by Peter Moruzzi, “Strikingly modern, sited at the crest of La Rampa (23rd St.), the Habana Hilton stands as vivid testimony to the brief moment when dictator Fulgencio Batista’s vision of the city as Latin America’s premier tourist destination was fulfilled. Renamed the Habana Libre (Free Habana) after the revolution, the hotel served as Castro’s provisional headquarters when he took Havana in January 1959.”
Havana, the glamorous, gay capital of Cuba, provides a sophisticated setting for the new 30-story high Habana Hilton. Overlooking Havana, historic Morro Castle and the harbor, this spectacular, completely air-conditioned hotel offers 630 lavishly-appointed rooms and suites, each with a large private balcony, plus all the facilities of a magnificent resort. A swimming pool, colorful cabanas, an exciting Trader Vic’s restaurant and a rooftop cocktail lounge, the Sugar Bar, are just a few of the many outstanding features at Latin America’s largest hotel, the fabulous new Habana Hilton.