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10th of October Causeway

habana-10 de octubreThe poet Eliseo Diego alluded to this Havana street as “the rather enormous roadway of Jesús del Monte.” That was the name of that road until in 1918 the Havana City Council agreed to the request of the Association of Cuban Revolutionary Emigrants to give it the new name in homage to the glorious day in which Carlos Manuel de Céspedes gave the cry of Independence or Death.

Its old name was due to the very Cuban custom of calling uncultivated land, covered with trees and bushes, and, by extension, a sparsely populated area, “monte”. It was, by decision of the Development Board, the first paved road in Havana starting in 1796, and began to receive the name of calzada, that is, path paved with stones. It was a section of the road that led to the towns of Santiago de las Vegas and Bejucal; the only road that led from the city and into the countryside.

Sugar, tobacco, yarey hats

In lands of the current municipality of Diez de Octubre there was a sugar mill. The origin of the parish of Jesús del Monte is lost in the mists of time, as its construction began in 1695 when the priest Cristóbal Bonifá de Rivera devised to build it in a space of his property so that it would serve the owners of the sugar mill. and their slaves and neighbors.

The tobacco plains, developed along the Agua Dulce and Maboa streams, gave relative prosperity to the town, which in 1765 was declared head of the district and its church ceased to be an auxiliary parish to become an independent parish. In 1820 Jesús del Monte was already a municipality, and it lost that status three years later.

At one end of the outer wall of the parish there is an inscription that no one stops to read. It is engraved in stone. It says: “A league to Havana”. For Havanans from the periphery, only the center and the old part of the city deserve to be recognized as Havana. Perhaps that is the meaning of the inscription, although it may well obey the belief, still in vogue in 1863, that towns such as Jesús del Monte and el Cerro could not join the body of Havana because, as stated on that date the historian Jacobo de la Pezuela, “they are still separated by large uninhabited spaces”.

In Jesús del Monte, the humblest residents earned their living thanks to the sale of guano and yarey hats that they wove themselves, while the transit of travelers, carts and muleteers contributed at the same time their due thanks to the toll that was collected in the toll established in the area. The establishment of the Habana-Bejucal railway compromised and delayed the development of the town.

In 1846, more than 2,000 people lived in Jesús del Monte, and in 1858 there were 4,000 residents, and the villages of La Víbora, Arroyo Apolo, Arroyo Naranjo and other hamlets were settled in its five square leagues. There was a stage in which Jesús del Monte came to dispute with Cerro and Puentes Grandes “the animation and the attendance in the summer seasons”. Those were times when people spoke of “the purity of its atmosphere and the amenity of its landscape”.

That boom, however, was short-lived. Jesús del Monte never supplanted these towns as an elegant neighborhood, a role that El Vedado was awarded, and lost in territorial extension when Arroyo Naranjo was divided, which then included the hamlets of Arroyo Naranjo and San Juan.

From the trees of the Calzada de Jesús del Monte, then called Camino de Santiago (de las Vegas), twelve of the vegueros who rebelled in 1723 were hanged, and for the third time, against the arbitrary and abusive tobacconist arranged by the government colonial. And Jesús del Monte was also the scene of the Creole resistance against the English invasion of 1762.

Due to its location, on a height facing the city, it was a strategic place for the defense of the town, and an almost unique route for its supply. In those days, there died a natural death, José Antonio Gómez y Bullones, mayor of Guanabacoa, hero of the popular resistance against the invader, whom he faced with the blow of a machete.Ssix kilometers

It is a road that must be six kilometers long. It starts at the corner of Tejas and ends at La Palma. There are no fewer than five bank branches along the entire route of this street, and the section that runs between Estrada Palma and Luis Estévez streets, and the one on the corner of Toyo, whose bakery has been serving since 1832, is very lively.

Six kilometers

The best Galician broth in Havana was offered at El Bodegón de Toyo. Also missing are Josefina Siré fritters, in the portals of the León café, reputed to be among the best in the city; Out of the hands of a woman who enjoyed a comfortable economic position – she was the owner of the cookie factory that bears her surname – hers and who clung to those fries as her only means of subsistence. The two Police Stations that were on the Calzada –the eleventh, Toyo, and the fourteenth, in Santa Amalia- are now schools. On the corner of Calle Carmen is the Alejandro de Humboldt bookstore, which we still call La Polilla.

The space that was later occupied by the Tosca cinema, in the section between Estrada Palma and Luis Estévez, was held until 1915 by the Gran Liceo de Jesús del Monte, adapted for a movie theater. On the corner of Agua Dulce, the Gran Cine was demolished to build, in 1945, the Florida cinema, with its 1,200 seats. Other cinemas on the road were Apolo, Moderno, Gran Cinema and Martha. None works as such anymore.

On September 4, 1933, a sergeant named Batista left one of the apartments in the Toyo knife building to overthrow the constituted government and become the strong man of the Republic. Nearby was the Cooperativa Médica de La Habana clinic, -the old Casuso, as it was called when this chronicler was a child- converted his building into an apartment house, after he had installed a nursing home there .

And since we mentioned that nursing home, it is worth remembering that there were several along this Calzada, from Dependientes -current Hospital Diez de Octubre- at number 130 of the road, to the Santa Teresa de Jesús sanatorium -current Hogar Castellana. Between one and the other, some pocket clinics have few clients and few resources, such as Santa Gema, Santa Clara, El Sol and Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, installed in the ostentatious Párraga mansion, opposite what was the bus stop of the Víbora.

(By: Ciro Bianchi Ross/Cubadebate)

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