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Sun Aug 2, 2020, 09:58 PM

Cubans bid farewell to Eusebio Leal Spengler, the saviour of Havana

Ruaridh Nicoll in Havana
Published onSat 1 Aug 2020 11.00 EDT

The old town of Havana has sheltered many famous faces over its 500 years, Alexander von Humboldt and Ernest Hemingway among them, but few more loved than Eusebio Leal Spengler, who died on Friday.

The city historian could be seen most days walking through the cobbled streets, past the fruit hawkers and musicians, passing under balconies strung with drying sheets. He would stop to talk to residents who knew him by sight, despite his understated manner and the grey guayabera shirt of the Cuban bureaucrat he favoured.

Leal had a reputation for sorting out people’s problems, however small. Last week however, Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, called him “the Cuban who saved Havana”.

Leal was born in 1942 and, although poor, he educated himself as a historian. He was fascinated by the city around him. One of his earliest acts was to save a street cobbled in wood outside the old governor general’s palace from being permanently covered in asphalt.

According to the city’s mythology, it had been originally laid in wood to muffle the wheels of passing carriages so that the governor general could enjoy his siesta. It is one curious detail in a city that contains masterpieces from almost every period in the last half millennium, be it baroque, art deco, art nouveau or Soviet realist.


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Leal's biographical information in Wikipedia:


Guiding Prince Charles and the Rottweiler around Havana.

Spain honors Eusebio Leal
The King of Spain, Felipe VI, today decorated the Historian of the city of Havana, Eusebio Leal, with the Great Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III, the dean of Spanish distinctions and the highest of the Orders civilians granted by the Iberian nation

Ileana González González

Eusebio Leal was awarded the Grand Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III

Havana Cuba. - The King of Spain, Felipe VI, decorated the Historian of the city of Havana, Eusebio Leal, with the Great Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III, the dean of Spanish distinctions and the highest of the Orders civilians granted by the Iberian nation.

The City Museum -Palace of the Captains General- was the scene of the event, which was attended by Esteban Lazo, president of the Parliament and the Council of State, as well as government authorities in the capital.

In emotional words of thanks, Leal expressed that in our history Spain - in one way or another - accompanies us, and recalled the Spanish ancestors of José Martí and Antonio Maceo, heroes of Cuban independence.

Previously, the president of the Provincial Assembly of Popular Power, Reinaldo García Zapata, presented King Felipe Sexto with a replica of the Giraldilla, one of the symbols of Havana.

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Eusebio Leal elected a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Academy members are world leaders, thinkers and innovators recognized for their notable contributions in different fields

Author: Granma | internet@granma.cu

may 9, 2019 12:05:31

“Congratulations. Deserved recognition for the professor and friend for his life’s work” Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted following Eusebio Leal’s election as an AMACAD Member. Photo: José Manuel Correa
The election of Havana City Historian, Eusebio Leal, as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AMACAD) responds to the honorary institution’s founding premise: “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

In the inaugural years following its founding in 1780, the U.S. Academy boasted among its members figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The institution is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is made up of more than 4,000 members from the United States, and more than 600 foreign honorary members, including Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and British anthropologist Mary Douglas Leakey.

The membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences seeks to represent thinkers and innovators from all over the world, notable for their contributions in very diverse professions and branches of knowledge. Its studies are focused on research and analysis in science and technology, global security and international affairs, social policy, education and the humanities.

Eusebio Leal has been awarded with a long list of recognitions, among which are the national awards for History, Social and Humanistic Sciences, and the Cultural Heritage Prize for his Life’s Work, in addition to ten Honorary Degrees from various universities around the world.


(Short article, no more at link.)

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Google translated:

Eusebio Leal, the learned historian friend of Fidel Castro who saved Old Havana from collapse, dies
BBC News World
July 31, 2020

When the excavator threatened to lift the last remaining colonial-era wooden pavers in Havana to pave the area, prior to the visit of a Soviet minister, the work was interrupted by a young man who lay down on a cross in the middle of the street. .

"On my corpse!" He shouted, "On my corpse!"

It was the beginning of the 1970s and it was still a decade before Eusebio Leal Spengler , who died this Friday in Havana at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer, became the Historian of the City and the figure most recognized internationally for restoration work in the capital of Cuba.

But that fact marked perhaps like no other his work and efforts during almost four decades to save the historical part of Havana from collapse, from nitrate and from years of neglect and abandonment.

"When a building falls, it's like a part of my heart falls," he said in his last interview with the BBC.

Leal, known for his proverbial eloquence, led the majority of his career in works that restored splendor to some of the buildings and areas with the highest heritage value in Havana, while creating a unique model of tourism and heritage development. in Castro's Cuba.

"In accordance with his family, his ashes will be conserved so that, once the epidemic of covid-19 has been controlled and as a fair recognition of his imperishable work, our people can pay him a well-deserved tribute in the Capitol of Havana, an emblematic installation that he restored in favor of the nation, "said the official Granma newspaper.

Who Was Eusebio Leal?
Born in Havana in September 1942, Leal barely finished sixth grade and much of his training was self-taught, although his interest in culture and history led him to work for the then City Historian, Emilio Roig, whom he always considered his mentor.

By a rectoral decree, although he did not have the required school level, he managed to enter the University of Havana, where he graduated from History and where he would later attain the title of doctor.

After Roig's death in 1981 he became the new historian of Havana and his closeness to Fidel Castro allowed him to implement an unusual economic model in the old part of the city that began to operate in parallel with the rest of Cuba.

Leal built a network of capitalist stores, boutique hotels, and tourist attractions and plans that generated the money he needed to preserve the city's architectural gems.

. . .

He was named a member of the Mexican Academies of Language and History, as well as of the US Arts and Sciences and the Smithonian Institute, among twenty other institutions.

. . .


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Reply Cubans bid farewell to Eusebio Leal Spengler, the saviour of Havana (Original post)
Judi Lynn Aug 2020 OP
pansypoo53219 Aug 2020 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Aug 3, 2020, 07:18 AM

1. thanks. but where are the wooden cobbles?

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