Have you ever thought about the restoration and preservation of violins? Well, there’s a workshop dedicated to just that in Old Havana.
The Office of the Historian of La Habana created the Workshop for Luthiers five years ago. I don’t know much about violins, so I had to look up the wordluthiers. Maybe you don’t know what the word means either so here’s a definition:
lu·thi·er = a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars. It’s derived from the French word for lute.
As many of you probably know, the Plaza Vieja is one of Old Havana’s principal squares. It was constructed in the 1500s to create a space for bullfights and fiestas.
The Plaza was slowly transformed during the late 18th century when it was ringed by colonial houses. Eventually European cafe music drew guests to the Art Nouveau Hotel Plaza Viena, opened in 1906. (I’ve stayed at the Plaza several times in the past, but I’ve read that it’s gutted now for a complete restoration. It should be lovely when the work is completed.)
Over the years, the square changed, A modernization program of the 1930s-1950s allowed for the installation of a huge cement underground parking lot that was really an eyesore. This has been removed, though, and the square has been completely restored, so music rings out over the square again.
Hidden behind an unmarked doorway next to the craft brewery in the video (above) , you’ll find a spiral staircase leading up to a high-ceilinged workshop. Here you’ll find skilled craftsmen who are working to restore Cuba’s historic violins, violas, and cellos. Using high-end imported tools and varnishes, workers take pride in a quality of work that they say can’t be found among amateur repairmen who use hammers to fix violins.
(NOTE: If you can’t see the video on the first go round, just reload your page.)
Photograph by Manolo Sanchez Victores