DISCOVERING CUBA – PALACIO DE VALLE

The crossroad of opulence, colonial memories and misfortune

There are many reasons why Cienfuegos in Cuba, has become one of the most outstanding regions of the country dating back to the 19th century, and this is mostly due to the historical and patrimonial legacy that today are merged into the heritage of a full-of-history city. Cienfuegos literally translates to “one hundred fires” but is dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South). And for sure that the jewel of Cienfuegos is the overwhelming architectural exercise of Palacio De Valle.

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The land was purchased by the dealer Don Acisclo del Valle, owner of several sugar cane plantations. When Acisclo Valle began to build its mansion in 1913, he could hardly imagine that the facility would eventually become a symbol of the Pearl of the South. The palace is located in the area of La Punta, National Monument of Cultural Heritage.

The terrain is located in Punta Gorda neighbourhood and was a wedding gift from Amparo Suero’s father, when she married Acisclo, a wealthy businessman. Rumour has it that the couple was on a trip to Spain when they decided to build a unique chalet.

The construction began in 1913 and the work was entrusted to Italian architect Alfredo Colli and foreman Juan Suarez and ended in 1917, costing a million and half pesos. It is Gothic influences, Romanesque, Baroque and Italianate combined with the Mudejar style, in vogue in Spain in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which make the building a architectural gem. It is assumed that craftsmen involved in this work were experts of different nationalities for each specialty.

The Spanish carver Antonio Barcenas made the gateway to the garden. The Frank Palacios from Cienfuegos created bronze railing of the staircase, the shields and ornaments of the front and all hardware. The painter Miguel Lamoglia decorated carved wood imitating the office of master of the house and painted the beautiful crystals allegories of Carrara marble staircase.

All materials were imported: Carrara marble, Italian alabaster, Venetian ceramics, ironwork and forgings from Granada, mosaics and glass made in Talavera  and European hardwood mahogany. In the interior decorations of the building, there are inscriptions that indicate the nationality of the artisans involved in its construction like this: “Lag log ila illegible,” a phrase from the Koran which means “Only God is God.”

The central plant is quite amazing. It is flanked by 2 sphinxes from Egyptian tales, with head and breast of a woman and body and paws of a lion that personify the sun. However, some people assume that this was not supposed to be the main entrance. Yet, its proximity to the marble stairway that leads to the second floor made it so.

The entrance is primitive Gothic style and leads to a dining room of Mudejar influence, which imitates the famous Patio of the Lions, of Alhambra, in Granada. Then comes the music and games room, of Luis XV style, and the foyer of Imperial style, with golden friezes, rosy marble baseboards, brass applications and white marble floor. The second floor has 8 bedrooms, plus living and study rooms. Behind the staircase can be found the kitchen with pantry. On the staircase giving access to private rooms, is a bevelled mirror, a jewel of art, where you can see coloured crystals transparent to the end of the afternoon, the sun’s rays, which illuminate a path where observed lowering of “Three Kings”

Vases of Italian and Chinese porcelain are scattered all over the palace. They evidence the opulence of bourgeois times in Cuba and a kind of construction that imitates foreign styles. They show us how Acisclo del Valle let his money and imagination drift freely. The owner’s initials are criss crossed into an artistic monogram in the ceramic floor.

The building ends in 3 towers: Gothic Roman, Indian and a mignonette of Arab style are crowning the roof with breathtaking views of Cienfuegos bay. The first symbolizes strength, love the second and third, religion as an institution.

The family didn’t enjoy too much this lavish sumptuous residence.  Couple of months after the inauguration the price of sugar dropped, the market collapsed and facing the pressure of a financial disaster Acisclo died in Cienfuegos at 4:00 PM on December 26, 1919, at age 54, as a result of a heart attack. In 1922 his widow decided to abandon the palace, return forever to Spain and transfer the mortal remains to his natal Arriondas, where they rest forever in the family pantheon.

Palacio de Valle became the Hunters’ Club for some time. In the 1950’s, an investment company bought the land on which stands the palace and Batista planned to convert this colourful riot of tiles, turrets and stucco into a casino. The Castro’s Revolution triumphed and the new authorities opened an Art School there. Today the Palacio de Valle is one of the symbols of Cienfuegos by architectural and historical values being one of Cienfuegos’s main attractions and hosting a restaurant dedicated to all lovers of art and Cuban cuisine. Among its many uses in recent decades, it served as a press centre for the Fourth Summit of Petrocaribe, a regional energy integration body, held here in late December 2007.

And at dusk, as I witnessed incredible tones of red and oranges over the sea,  the waves that bathe the bay stop to tell the stories about nostalgia and memories of the Palacio de Valle.

~ by leonard69 on January 26, 2017.

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