Abandoned Cuba (1 Viewer)


Sometimes traveler is traveling.
Jul 28, 2011
Rochester, NY
Putting on here for @Kal cause it is cool. Man alive I'd love to go through more of these places. Wonder where @sucuri is these days!!!

Cool article though and cool pics :)


Unauthorized Photos Of Abandoned Sites In Cuba The Cuban Government Doesn’t Want You To See

by Robert Johnson
Senior Correspondent
Posted on July 24, 2015, 2:06 PM

More: abandoned cuba, abandoned far base cuba, abandoned navy school cuba, Centro Naval Polytechnic Aracelio, cuba, juragua nuclear power plant, the real cuba
Driving through Havana during my first couple of days into a two week Cuban assignment for our Real Cuba series, it was impossible not to wonder if many of the dilapidated buildings were as vacant as they seemed.

Cuba suffers from a major housing shortage, so the buildings that remain at all safe for inhabiting are often crammed with creative Cubans needing a place to call home.

The country is held up as one of the few places on the planet without a genuine homeless problem, but sometimes the homes people reside in are primitive and unsafe by most American standards.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

In Havana, the collapse of once grand buildings, often with people living inside, is so common the event is called simply a derrumbe, the Spanish word for collapse.

Derrumbe’s are not only common, they’re enough of an official concern that the national Communist Party daily newspaper Granma reports on them and accurately prints the number of deaths when they occur — rather than pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

Needless to say exploring places that seemed abandoned could be very unsafe and often led to surprise meetings with unsuspecting residents or officials.

Even after seeing so many seemingly empty buildings and forgotten properties, the Naval Polytechnic Institute Aracelio Iglesias Diaz in East Havana stuck out to me.

I think it was the Soviet looking basketball court, the bent wrought iron fence and the abandoned guard shack that prompted me to pull over on my way out of Havana driving to Cienfuegos.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I stumbled upon it while lost, again. Well, driving a road I realized incorrect and knew I needed to turn around, regardless. I stopped at the school to do that, and hopped out to take a closer look before I did retraced my route.

The gate was open and I walked to the front first to see if it was at all occupied. That’s a bust of José Martí at the bottom right.

Martí is sometimes called the Apostle of the Cuban revolution, not the 1959 Castro revolution, but the revolutionary wars fought over decades in the 19th century. Martí was instrumental in helping Cuba gain its autonomy from Spain, prior to his death in 1895, and he remains a national hero.

If Che Guevera is iconic in Cuba today, then Martí is almost deified. Airports, parks, roads…you name it and somewhere it has Martí’s name ascribed to it.

These busts seem to be most everywhere, and almost always in every school yard. No matter the decay or the vandalism to surrounding objects or property, I never saw one besmirched or, as far as I could tell, removed.

The school behind it crumbling, the bust of José Martí remained nearly pristine even where neighboring statues had been removed.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Up the stairs by the front entrance, sure enough, there were a few people occupying some space in the back and lounging in this area here.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I snapped this shot, between the iron bars of the door, before leaving the area for the other side of the compound to explore from there. Everything left as though its occupants fully intended to return.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

After walking the perimeter of the iron fence along the sidewalk to the far side, I entered the old naval technical school from here.
Inside the guard shack were some old clothes, a couple single shoes, garbage and condoms.
The latter such a common sight throughout my two weeks in Cuba, that I quickly assumed the shortage of condoms in Cuba throughout 2014, was a thing of the past.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I could hear the words and laughter of the people I’d seen earlier echoing off the halls from the nearby stairway as I walked along the line of windows opening to the courtyard and basketball court.
A layer of dust covered books and videocassete in this room and I scared off a moderately sized lizard sunning himself on a box as I approached.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

The classrooms looked as if they’d just let out for the previous day and sat awaiting the students and faculty’s return.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It wasn’t until I was back in New York that I was able to dig into the history of the Centro Polytechnic Naval Aracelio Iglesias Diaz compound.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It was built in 1972, with the help of Polish architects and planners to teach shipbuilding and other naval technical skills.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Searching the school name online pulls up many CVs that point to the school as a once renowned stepping stone with students from many countries filling these rooms.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

According to the little I was able to learn online, the school delayed its start of classes in September 2012, due to the compound’s fading condition. Classes never resumed.
Though it has apparently been abandoned for three years, the chalkboards outside the rooms, hanging in open hallways, are still covered in writing.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)
Warning its sailors and soldiers against the dangers of STDs in unique ways has been common practice in educating troops around the world for generations, and is still part of formal deployment training in the U.S. military.
Despite my 6 years in the Army, however, this was the first pamphlet on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, complete with glossy graphic photos, that I’d seen.
It was still on this bulletin board. Tucked neatly beneath this festive paper flower.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I could hear more people moving around and talking within the courtyards as I made my way upstairs.
I couldn’t tell if the people below were looking for me, but their laughter had stopped and I did my best to move as silently as possible; listening for footsteps or nearby conversation as I walked.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

All the doors seemed to be locked, as I checked them and worked my way through the halls.
Either boarded up where the original door was insufficient, or just locked in securely in 2012, without any major signs of vandalism.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

All except the door to this room that had clearly been vandalized around the electrical panel.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Inside, at least one fire had left items around the space charred, and now wet from rain that had come in through an opened window.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

With the sounds of more widespread movement coming from below, I decided to head to the top floor and then return to the car.
This “LMFAO!” spray-painted on these blocks may either reference the U.S. band of the same name, the Internet slang acronym Laughing my F’in’ Ass Off, or something else entirely.
Given the limited access to international media and culture, and the fact that it seems unique to English, all possible explanations seemed equally interesting.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I snapped that shot and slipped back down the stairs to the car.
Following this, my final photograph at the school, an older black man with white hair, wearing some kind of uniform beneath a black blazer, walked through the gate and watched me drive away.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It was a couple of days later, while walking Cienfuegos Bay with my landlady that I noticed a massive concrete dome in the distance, jutting up above the trees.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It was immense, and I was able to easily point it out from miles away to ask her what it was. She knew immediately what I referred to.

“The Juragua Nuclear Power Plant,” she said in English. We finished our walk and I quickly made arrangements with my fixer and guide, Felix to take me to the abandoned plant.

My fixer couldn’t, or wouldn’t, explain what was happening at the plant that day. He said initially it was a place used to dump… something, and then told me automobiles were also manufactured or worked on here.

I never found if either were accurate, but he was very nervous about being here and I could hear machinery and people in the distance from here.

A site with destroyed outbuildings some distance from the plant that we’d reached by an overgrown concrete road.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Felix had agreed to drive through quickly, while I snapped what photos I could from the car, but this road he’d planned to access was now blocked off. He said the barbed wire blocking the road was new, though the metal on either side looked to have been there for some time.

When I threw my camera into my backpack, hopped out of the car and told him to swing back and pick me up in 30 minutes, Felix seemed a bit shocked. “You crazy,” he said, as I stepped out. The first, but not the last time, he said those words to me.

I was halfway across the road when he rolled down the window. “Robert,” he yelled. “Be careful.” I waved him off and assured him I would be.

“No. Robert,” he called again, prompting me to pause and turn. “Really. Be careful.”

So I carefully hopped this section of fence and made my way in.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

In the distance I could see an additional barricade blocking the road to the abandoned plant and next to it a small building.

The power plant was started as a joint Soviet Union/Cuba effort in 1983 designed to increase Cuban energy production. Unfortunately, all it actually increased was Cuba‘s reliance on the soon-to-be defunct Soviet state and construction was halted in 1992.

Efforts had been made since to complete construction, but investigations showed the current work to be so flawed that it was unsafe to ever house the nuclear reactors for which it was intended.

Past the barbwire fence, I walked along the row of sharp thorn bushes trying to get close enough to see if the hut were occupied. Assuming that it was, and its occupants were there to watch for someone much like me.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Aside from a corral full of horses that I knew could make an array of noises to alert any guards if they sensed my presence, I also spotted a yellow moped tucked under the porch of the building.

The horses and moped were enough to give me pause, but when I looked through my telephoto lens to get a better look, I saw the scooter had a blue license plate. The color assigned to official government vehicles.
I turned around and walked back to the street.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It hadn’t been more than 10 minutes and the road, though not heavily travelled, left me exposed to cars and slow horse-drawn carts filled with Cubans.
Knowing I’d stand out here for my ethnicity alone, not to mention my camera and bag, I ducked behind what appeared to be an old bus stop to wait for Felix.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It was at least another 20 minute wait and was the hottest span of time I spent in Cuba throughout my two week journey.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I didn’t return that day, but the following morning.
This time without Felix and I stopped to see what workers were spreading on the road to the power plant. Rice, to absorb oil from the asphalt? I guessed at the time. But researching this later, I found that rice is often spread out to dry on the roads.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Alone this time, I wedged the car on another very overgrown concrete path and started to walk toward the power plant some distance away.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

It was quiet at just after 8 a.m. Spotting these hoof prints and recent shoe tracks, I thought maybe the horses I’d seen the day before were used by guards to patrol the grounds around the plant.
But these looked to be simply cattle prints, though I now knew to expect people at any point in my walk.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Abandoned and destroyed buildings were just about everyplace I looked as I walked a narrow path through the woods.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Not knowing what was now happening at the old plant now made me very cautious. If the government were using it for military purposes, or some secret…whatever, my sudden presence would be worse than unwelcome.

This old cistern, half filled with water and giving off a terrible stench from a hole in the ground suddenly seemed like a choice way to get rid of any trespassers. It sounds silly, but people have disappeared in Cuba who had intentions far more innocuous than mine.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I had no working phone, or any way to communicate. Mariela, my landlady, was the only person who knew where I was.

I could soon see a break in the trees and came upon a road where I could hear people talking. I crouched down to let these two pass, as I guessed they were making their way to work.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

As I quietly navigated my way closer, the dome of the plant remained visible above the trees.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

As another group of people approached in the distance, I slipped inside this abandoned building to wait for them to pass.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Scrawled on the outside is this snippet of text from a famous speech delivered by Fidel Castro to the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, in 2000.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Fortunately, the group I heard talking in the distance never passed by, because the swarm of swallows I disturbed from their roost here hovered outside.
Squawking and diving in loud protest at my intrusion, their noise was immense in the quiet morning and they would surely given away my presence to anyone bothering to notice.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Leaving the noisy birds behind, I made it to this small building, where again I stepped inside to avoid people walking by.
I could see the plant on this road with a guard booth not far away. I decided that getting noticed was just a matter of time and that it was a far safer bet to get stopped in my rental car than traipsing around on foot.
I went back to the car and decided on a direct frontal approach.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

That attempt quickly resulted in this.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I was promptly stopped by the guards in the small security building and asked for my passport, rental papers and driver’s license. I claimed to have none, though all were in the glovebox of the car.

The guard settled for writing down my license plate number before allowing me to turn around.

It turned out, I discovered after returning to the U.S., that a Romanian blogger I’d previously worked with named Darmon Richter did get inside the plant in late 2014.

Richter failed to successfully bribe his way past these guards and instead sought out the water pipes leading from the plant to the bay and got in through those.

He documents his journey here. It’s impressive and crazy, because though the place turned out to be empty, Richter had no idea what he might stumble upon inside. And had no idea how badly whoever may have been doing it, didn’t want the world to know.

Overall a very discouraging effort for me, though, that left me determined to access to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias—FAR) base that my fixer and I passed the day before just up the road.

This, he assured me was abandoned. So, I foolishly opened the front gate and drove right in.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Only to wake up a small cadre of uniformed army soldiers in this building.
They filed out wiping sleep from their eyes and matting down their pillow tousled hair as they told me I needed to “Get out!”
As three of them repeated almost in unison, more than once, while I tried talking my way in using badly mangled clips of Spanish.


(Credit: Robert Johnson)

So, I got back in the car, drove back to the road and continued driving for 10 minutes before turning around and parking at the edge of the compound to sneak back in.

None of the soldiers I saw had sidearms, but I didn’t know if they had any weapons stashed where they were garrisoned at the entrance. Even then, I didn’t think they’d necessarily shoot an American photographer, but as their loud voices echoed across the compound, it didn’t seem terribly far fetched.

They’d already given verbal warning for me to leave and they clearly had little else to do guarding a shuttered military facility.

I erred on the side of caution, by running, hunched over, between buildings and taking cover where I could.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Most all the doors to various rooms and buildings seemed to be locked, so when I pulled on the massive steel door attached to what I assumed was a former prison cell, I was surprised it popped right open, fell off its hinges and almost pulled me to the ground before I caught it.

From inside this room came a stench that nearly washed over me and as I righted the door, I saw two dead land crabs that had likely fallen in through a barred window on the far side of the concrete room.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

I could hear the soldiers voices from everywhere I walked, which good since I hoped they hadn’t heard the door fall from its frame. From where their voices seemed to carry, it seemed they hadn’t moved from their location at the front. At least, that’s what I hoped.

As I found the old armory…

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

What may have been an old kitchen…

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

And what looked like decaying barracks rooms…

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

Before making my way past the old water tower and back to the road where I’d parked the rental car.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

No troops could be seen as I again passed the front gate and made my way back to Cienfuegos to continue my journey.

(Credit: Robert Johnson)

This wasn’t the last time that I was compelled to investigate some set of buildings looming from an overgrown field as Felix and I continued our trek throughout the Cuban countryside in the following days.

But I’d had enough encounters with officials, and had my information documented enough throughout my time in Cuba, just innocently wandering around that I didn’t really want to push my luck and suddenly be forced from the country.

Given that Cuba/U.S. relations were progressing to such a civilized level, I was confident the Cubans wouldn’t react too harshly to whatever foolishness I may get up to, but still, I thought… it’s a communist dictatorship and one never knows.

Each time I’d walk up on a set of buildings, though after this, I always found at least one person on the grounds watching me walk up or awaiting my arrival. I’d stop from a distance and take some photos, but abandoned Cuba, never really seemed to be fully abandoned.
We sell all kinds of other stuff in our Etsy store!


Oct 11, 2016
Mt. Holly and Shamong NJ
I have been to Cuba. My mother's family is from Cuba. I have been to Havana . My Favorite was the little village my grandmother and grandfather was from called Caimanera which is in Guantanamo Province in Eastern Cuba. Also called Oriente. It is so different then Havana

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