This hotel, originally known as Sevilla Great Hotel, was inaugurated on March 22, 1908, and at the time was considered the first de luxe hotel in Havana.
Architecture, decoration, services and, especially, its central location next to the already famous Paseo del Prado, made this hotel one of the most frequented in the early decades of the Republic and its fame spread beyond the borders of the country.
Tenor Enrico Caruso and famous entertainer Josephine Baker were among the high-standing personalities staying in it at the time.
In the early ‘20s, American company Bowman Hotels bought the hotel and the building next to it and in 1924 the Arellano and Mendoza Company finished its enlargement. It then was renamed Hotel Sevilla Biltmore - Havana City.
With the increasing American penetration in the island which would give tourism nuances closer to vice and shady business, important changes would come to the Sevilla. Life in the hotel would change after 1939 when Don Amleto Battisti and Lora took possession of the Havana Sevilla Biltmore shares and set his operational quarters in it. From there, Battisti quickly extended his interests and businesses: gambling in all its forms, horse races, casinos, organised prostitution, companies and banks linked to the international mob. He even became a figure in Cuban politics and had a seat in the Congress. He also presented himself as a sponsor of arts and even “wrote” one or too books on the future of world economy and politics.
Calabrian Don Amadeo Barletta Barletta’s family was at the top of the highest pyramid in criminal businesses we have news of. He turned up in Havana in the late ‘20s as the representative of the economic interests of the Mussolini family in America, but things became complicated little by little until he was exposed as a double-agent in Italian and American intelligence.
Wanted by the FBI in 1942, Barletta was able to escape to South America thanks to his multiple contacts, but already in 1946 he was again in the Cuban capital, now as a representative of large American companies, among them General Motors. In a few years he had built a phenomenal empire, with an accelerated pyramidal effect that included casinos, famous nightclubs, banks and dozens of front companies in the most diverse branches of economy and finances. He even controlled TV-channels, radio stations and newspapers.