National Geographic : 1989 Aug
BUILDINGA FUTURE out of the past, work men renovate structuresalongLuz Street (left). Interiorwork includes the removal of murals to the early 18th-century Casa de la Obrapia,where specialistsled by Angel Bello Romero (below, at right) rescue the paintingsfrom centuriesof neglect. In 1977, the year after Cuba named Old Havana a national monument, officials formalized a restorationplan. UNESCO offered assistanceand declared the area a world heritage site in 1982. Today the project's annual budget of 7.8 million dol lars supports more than 800 workers. Castro has made tourism a top economic goal, and the restored Old City is proving a strong drawingcardfor visitors. Lastyear tourists,mostly Canadians,Mexicans, and Europeans,added significantly to Cuba's supply of hard currency. Visits by Ameri cans are severely restrictedunder an embargo imposed by the U. S. in 1962. So far workers have completed 68 struc tures; plans callfor renovating at least a hundred more by the year 2000. With lim ited resourcesand such obstacles as a cumbersome electricalsystem (right), the projectfocuses on rescue of the most impor tant historicstructures, a mere fractionof the area's3,157 buildings.