Quinta de los Molinos
The Botanical Garden of Havana* is located inside La Quinta de Los Molinos. The property originally contained two tobacco mills (that’s why the name; “molinos” means “mills”) in the 18th and 19th century. A villa was later added to serve as summer residence for the Spanish colonial governors. After the War of the Independence, the remodeled villa became the home of General Máximo Gómez.
Today the house where Gómez lived has been turned into a museum. The extensive green areas are still home of many endemic plants, from cannonball trees to ceibas and royal palm trees, all enclosed by a massive iron fence.
When I was growing up, in the 70s, the place was quite run-down—there was a pond with dark and dirty waters. People would joke that a horse had once drowned there because it stank to high heavens!
But La Quinta was still a magical universe to explore for the city mouse that I was. I remember going there once with my third-grade class and encountering several munching cows that made us run away at high speed. I lived very close, on Carlos III Avenue (now Salvador Allende Avenue) so it was easy to visit….I only had to walk three blocks to visit what I used to call “el monte” (the wilderness).
Later, in the 90s, I returned once with friends from a metaphysical group called The Violet Flame, whose members attempted to establish communication with the Ascended Masters and St. Germain. I never communicated with anyone, but others did, probably helped by a mysterious plant called “campana” (because it is bell-shaped) that must have possessed hallucinogenic properties. For all I know, they boiled the flowers in water for fifteen minutes or so and made “campana tea” from it. I have yet to try it.
Some of my friends swore that they saw elves, and I remember them pointing and marveling at their size and colorful attire.
I returned to La Quinta in my last trip to Cuba and walked around the place. There is now a mariposario (a butterfly pavilion) and the pond has been nicely restored.
There were still plenty of birds, some in cages, like these pobrecitos parrots, and many others, like the tiny hummingbird called zunzún, flying around free.
No elves, though I did my best to locate them!
*Not to be confused with the Jardín Botánico Nacional, also called Jardín Japonés, opened in 1989.