One of the most beautiful and striking buildings in the Havana skyline, El Capitolio, was completed in 1929. While it was clearly inspired by the United States Capitol building, Cubans boast that it is three feet longer, three feet wider and three feet taller. Underneath its magnificent dome, El Capitolio also hosts the world’s third tallest indoor statue.
Just a few years after it was built, the Great Depression motivated large crowds to demonstrate against the government of Gerardo Machado, the president who had originally commissioned the building. The rioting crowds that reached El Capitolio did not damage the building, but made sure to scratch out President Machado’s face from the relief on the building’s main entrance door.
After the revolution in the late 1950s, the Cuban government abandoned this building and moved the seat of power to Plaza de la Revolución on the other side of Havana. Since then, El Capitolio has been used by the Academy of Sciences and Cuba’s Science Ministry, as well as being open to visitors.
In another parallel with the U.S. Capitol, El Capitolio is undergoing major renovations. Millions are being spent on everything from new electric and plumbing infrastructure to polishing the opulent marble and gold finishes. When the work is concluded, the Cuban National Assembly will be moving back to El Capitolio after nearly half a century. This move is yet another symbol of the vast changes happening in Cuba. The renovation of the El Capitolio is part of a broader effort to revitalize Old Havana (Habana Vieja), including repaving the streets, constructing new office buildings, shops, and a ferry terminal.