Tropicana, Havana, Cuba 1951
This is a wonderfully colorful menu cover from El Tropicana, a cabaret in Havana, Cuba, that boasted Un Paraiso Bajo las Estrellas - a Paradise under the Stars. It is dated from the mid to late 1950s during the pre-Fidel Castro era.
Opened on December 30, 1939, in a lush, tropical garden of six-acres, El Tropicana was the height of glamour for visitors to Cuba in the 40s and 50s.The open-air cabaret was populated by showgirls in skimpy costumes and feathered headdresses and seated 1400 people, while full orchestras played to crowded dance floors that were both indoors and outdoors. American jazz singer Nat King Cole played there three times.
Though Cuban-owned, the casino had ties to the Mob. El Tropicana’s credit manager was a henchman for Meyer Lansky, an American organized crime figure known as the “Mob’s Accountant.”)
Revelers at El Tropicana included Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth and JFK, and well-heeled tourists from Miami arrived on planes chartered by El Tropicana. Passengers were served pink daiquiris and watched on-board cabarets performed by small groups of the nightclub’s dancers and musicians. Seats had been removed so a piano fitted on board, and there was room for dancing in the aisles of the plane.
The menu at el Tropicana was in Spanish and English and the most expensive set dinner cost $7 during this era.
There was a choice of 29 different champagnes and a wine list that included a 1948 Chateau Margaux for $8 and a 1947 Chateau d’Yquem for $9.
Cocktails included the Mary Pickford (named after a famous Hollywood actress), the Presidente and the Alexander.
On December 31, 1958, Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista fled into exile with a reported $300m fortune - the panicked atmosphere at El Tropicana that night featured in a scene in Godfather II.
Fidel Castro and his revolutionary forces took power the following day and closed the island’s casinos. The nightclubs, like almost everything in communist-led Cuba, became government property.
Cuban officials wrestled with what to do with el Tropicana but decided to re-open it to showcase Cuban culture. El Tropicana still offers flashy floor shows today, mostly for tourists who can afford the price of entry.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Gallery quality Giclée print on natural white, matte, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper using Epson K3 archival inks. Custom printed with border for matting and framing.
All printed in USA.
Each product is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu where available.