The Places

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Luciano arrived in Havana two months before it was planned. His entry in the National Hotel took place under an intense rain, strong wind and a great number of thunderclaps; years later, Luciano would remember this memorable instant in the luster of the following years.

[…] the bellboy drew the curtains of the large windows and I looked out. I could see almost the entire city. The palm trees struck me. Wherever you looked at, you found palm trees. I felt as if I were in Miami. I suddenly noticed that, for the first time in more than ten years, I was not handcuffed and there was nobody next to me, something I felt even when I went for a walk in Italy.
When I looked at the Caribbean from my window, I noticed something else: the water was as beautiful as in Naples Bay, but it was just ninety miles from the United States and this meant that I was practically in America again …

He loved the Hotel Nacional where he stayed in Room 724. It was a place he desired, he yearned for, with the ancient rigor of what is indispensable and a very sober luxury, in keeping with good taste. The hotel also had a small hall called Salon de los Mandatarios(Heads of State Hall) and a lift studded with iron fittings for the exclusive use of the Highest Authorities.

Hotel Sevilla Biltmore

Hotel Sevilla Biltmore
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.

Hotel Riviera Casino

Hotel Riviera Casino
Meyer Lansky, the great New York gambler, and a group of friends had enough money and saw the financial possibilities. Meyer personally bought the franchise for the magnificent and new “Hotel Riviera [$14 000 000] next to the Sea Wall; Jack, his brother, established more modest but equally profitable casinos in the older but opulent “Hotel Nacional.”
Other tourist centers were granted to a carefully chosen group of casino directors […] [These were the new alliances Lansky formed since 1956 against the pretensions of the New York families demanding participation in the lucrative Havana deals.]

Hotel Capri

The Hotel Capri is a high rise hotel located in central Havana.

In 1955, President Batista enacted Hotel Law 2070, offering tax incentives, government loans and casino licenses to anyone wishing to build hotels in excess of $1,000,000 or nightclubs for $200,000 in Havana. This bill brought Meyer Lansky and his "associates" in the mafia flooding to the city to take advantage.

The Capri was one of first to be built. Located on Calle 21, 1 Mp. 8 Vedado, only two blocks from the Hotel Nacional, it opened in November of 1957. With its 250 rooms, the nineteen-story structure was one of the largest hotel/casinos in Havana during its heyday. It boasted a swimming pool on the roof that can be seen in the opening scenes of Carol Reed's film "Our Man in Havana" and Mikhail Kalatazov's "I Am Cuba".

Owned by mobster Santo Trafficante, Jr. of Tampa, Florida, the hotel/casino was operated by Nicholas Di Costanzo racketeer Charles Turin (aliases: Charles Tourine, Charley "The Blade") and Santino Masselli of the Bronx NY(aliases:"Sonny the Butcher"). After it opened, George Raft was hired to be the public front for the hotel's club during his gangster days in Cuba.[1]It was believed that he owned a considerable interest in the club.

The hotel was designed by architect Jose Canaves and owned by the Canaves family. The hotel, along with its famous casino, was leased to American hotelier, "Skip" Shephard.

The hotel closed in 2003 but after 15 years of closure, the Spanish hotel chain NH has helped the re-opening of the iconic Hotel Capri in January 2014. As originally planned, the 4 stars hotel is offering excellent services and great room quality.
Want to know
more about the Empire of Havana?
"We invented Havana, and we can goddamn well move it someplace else if Batista can't control it.' - Meyer Lansky in Sydney Pollack's film 'Havana"

The Mafia in Havana - Enrique Cirules

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