Cuba: Capitol building to host parliament again

Updated: 04/26/2013 2:06 PM KSTP.com

(AP) HAVANA - Havana’s Capitol building will play host to Cuba’s parliament for the first time since 1959, when it came to be seen as a symbol of the old regime thrown out of power that year by Fidel Castro’s revolution.

City Historian Eusebio Leal, whose office has been overseeing the multi-year restoration of the building, said this week that lawmakers of the unicameral National Assembly will move into offices there.

They will also use it for their twice-annual one-day sessions, instead of the convention center in western Havana where they currently take place. Cuba is a single-party communist state.

Leal, who did not give an exact date for when the building will be ready, called it "a work of great importance for the architectural world and for Havana."

Inaugurated in 1929, the neoclassical masterpiece sits like an oversize wedding cake in the middle of bustling Center Havana.

It was inspired by and looks remarkably like the U.S. Capitol in Washington, and its elegant gray-and-white dome can be seen from many parts of the city when not shrouded with scaffolding.

Inside are massive granite stairs and a gigantic Egyptian onyx statue of a maiden warrior that symbolizes the republic.

After 1959, the building was used first as the home of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences, and later by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

Its latest tenants moved out in recent years as the City Historian’s Office began work on the building. The pace of restoration has noticeably picked up in recent months, even as it was still unclear what the building would be used for.

Leal’s office has restored hundreds of historic buildings and monuments in the city’s colonial quarter and elsewhere.

He said he also hopes to reopen the historic Marti Theater this year, just steps away from the Capitol.

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