Cuba is undergoing a gradual economic and social transformation that potentially carries great importance for the island nation, as well as for its relationships with the United States and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Part of this transformation includes the physical redevelopment of Old Havana, spearheaded by Dr. Eusebio Leal, the city’s chief historian and a leading public figure in Cuba. Dr. Leal has led the government’s efforts to remake Havana as a prime destination for travelers from around the world—more than 2.7 million paid a visit to Cuba last year alone—while at the same time preserving the city’s cultural, urban and architectural heritage.
On May 18, the Latin America Initiative and the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at Brookings hosted Dr. Leal for a discussion on progress to restore Old Havana, establish a self-sustainable financing system to preserve Cuba’s historical sites, and promote tourism. Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard Feinberg and Robert Puentes, senior fellow and director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, provided commentary on the opportunities and challenges of urban redevelopment in today’s Cuba and its effects on the wider Cuban economy. Brookings Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Martin Indyk provided introductory comments and Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Ted Piccone moderated the discussion.