...Lennon is now sitting peacefully on an iron
bench where there is room for someone to join him, three or
four people at a time. This is an interactive place for him
in a country where he was once outlawed; the Beatles were
outlawed, as was their music. Rock music ... “was microscopically
scrutinized for rock-related lyrics”, recalls Silvio
Rodríguez in an interview with Jaime Sarusky for his
magazine “Revolution and Culture”, “...rather,
there were imperialist influences in those times, which is
so ironic...miniskirts, long hair.” Imagine Lennon sitting
in a Havana park, perhaps thinking:
“Nothing can be prohibited
For the traveler who, from the comfort of his home, plans his
trip to Cuba reading magazines or tourist guide books, Havana looks
to be a city bathed white with lights, and easily recognizable by
such sites as the Morro Castle, The Capitol Building, Central Park,
or the smile of popular singer Compay Segundo. But over and above
these easily identifiable icons, other images are added to the equation
which speaks to both visitors and Cubans of their common destiny.
If one wishes to take a photograph with one of the Beatles, no need
to visit Paul McCartney’s home, or talk down Abbey Road in
multicultural London. We in Havana have the famous John Lennon statue.
In the park on 17th and 8th Streets, in a quiet Vedado neighborhood,
the bronze image of the most controversial Beatle awaits you, sitting
calmy on one of the park benches. The piece was formally introduced
on December 8, in the presence of Cuban President Fidel Castro,
as well as songwriters Carlos Varela, Gerardo Alfonso, and Santiago
Feliú, who ten years prior had promoted the idea of that
very site being dedicated as a homage to the British musician.
The monument was inaugurated as part of a 20th anniversary of the
assassination of the man who, along with Paul McCartney, George
Harrison, and Ringo Starr, was part of the Beatles.
That very day there was an observance at 251 Menlove Avenue in Liverpool,
where Lennon lived since age five with an aunt, as a result of his
The press reported news of a statue project in London’s Trafalgar
Square, and of promises to restore and transform a cultural center
on a property acquired by Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, in Coasta
del Sol, Spain.
The sheet-covered statue in the Havana park was unveiled by Cuban
singer Silvio Rodriguez, founder of La Nueva Trova Cuban music group,
and avowed admirer of the British quartet, and by President Fidel
Castro, who expressed regret at never having personally met Lennon.
“There are changes that are proper”, stated the official
mandate, making reference to the times when the Beatles were identified
by party officials as symbols of imperialist ideology, and enemies
of the Cuban Revolution.
The ban lasted until 1966, when a radio program first played a
song by the Liverpool quartet.
Nevertheless, many years passed until lovers of rock ‘n’
roll, with their long hair and blue jeans, were not automatically
labeled in Cuba as opponents of the socialist regime.
The monument was created by sculptor Jose Villa, whose works can
be found in other places throughout Cuba. “My aim was to honor
a controversial personality, filled with demons and dreams”,
stated Villa at the inaugural ceremony, which also featured a rock
concert, in tribute to Jose Marti. Also featured throughout the
week was a documentary by Roberto Chile about Lennon’s popularity
in Havana, and the release of the book “Sergeant Pepper Came
to Cuba in a Yellow Submarine”, by author Ernesto Juan Castellanos.
Next to the figure of a relaxed Lennon, there is a plaque with
lyrics from his song “Image”: “You may say I’m
a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Only a few days
after the statue's unveiling, the musician’s trademark glasses
had disappeared, presumably the work of a fan. Over and above the
finding of a new pair of spectacles, which were firmly attached
to the bronze figure, a permanent guard system was put into place,
with a watchful eye looking over the musician from Liverpool, day
“The statue weighs more than two tons, so it would be difficult
to steal it, but without the vigilance, somebody would surely make
off with it”, commented one of the custodians. “After
just two weeks following the arrival of Lennon’s new glasses,
they are now loose on his face, and that wasn’t the case when
they were first installed.
At any given time, at least five people can be seen next to the
author of “Imagine”, who sits patiently on his bench,
with crossed legs and casually leaning to the left, as if conversing
with somebody sitting next to him. There is always a flower left
by a visitor, a newly-wed couple posing for pictures embracing the
musician, a young girl touching his hands, or tourists, speaking
Japanese or German, as if this Lennon of Havana could understand
PARQUE JOHN LENNON
calles 17y 8, Vedado