We’ve covered Basque presence on the island of Cuba on a number of occasions, ranging from the jai alai court that was opened to the tune of the “Gernikako Arbola” when the US controlled the island just before its independence, to the Bilbao Bar in Old Havana, and from the adventures of Hemingway to the Basque pelota players who hunted German submarines.

Today were bringing you a more sinister side of our presence on the island.  While it is hardly becoming of us, it is a part of our history and our mark on the world.

We discovered this story thanks to the website Cuba Debate, which published this article by Ciro Bianchi Ross back in July.  The article discusses the history of a street in the commercial heart of Havana named after Ignacio Agramonte, a hero of Cuban independence.

That is the official name of the street, which it received in 1909, which is to say, over a century ago.  But despite that, the locals still call it by the name it received in 1874: Zulueta Street.  Something similar occurred with Padre Varela Street, which is still widely known as Belascoain Street, the street’s former name and the former home of most of the Basque pelota players who stopped on the island.  This is especially odd given how both Basque names have “unusual” pronunciations that don’t roll off the tongue.

Anyway, the author, in this very interesting article, goes into great detail about the story of this Basque immigrant who got a main street, downtown, parallel to the Paseo de Martí, named after him.

This person would be Julián de Zulueta y Amondo, Marquis of Araba and Viscount of Casablanca.  He was born in Anucita, Araba, in 1814 to a family of Basque farmers, and after moving to Cuba, he became a powerful businessman, slave trader, and politician who left a prominent, and dark, mark on the history of Cuba.

To learn more about this significant yet hardly inspiring member of the Basque Diaspora, and the story behind the street that still de facto bears his name, read Ciro Bianchi Ross‘s article.  More info (in Spanish) about this controversial (to put it lightly) figure, also check out the Enciclopedia Auñamendi.

Cuba Debate – 3/7/2020 – Cuba

Zulueta, una calle habanera

Zulueta es una de las calles más transitadas de La Habana. Marca uno de los límites del Parque Central y le pasa por la puerta al hotel Plaza. Cruza por un costado del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes y a su vera se asoma, entre otros establecimientos, el remozado bar Sloppy Joe, abierto de nuevo al público.

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