Betancourt, Museum, Santiago de Cuba

Walter Betancourt as a Contractor Part II

Walter Betancourt was a Cuban American architect.  After graduating from University of Virginia, and studying under Richard Neutra, he headed to Cuba to be part of the ‘revolution’ that was promised in the arts as well as the government.  Disillusioned he moved to Santiago de Cuba in 1965.  Betancourt finished 17 works in the easter end of the island.  These include the Velasco Cultural Center, Las Pyramides Cafeteria and Chess Park in Santiago de Cuba, The Reforestation Center in Guisa and the renovation of the Palma Theater in Baracoa.

He was also very well known projects where he left his mark as a supervisor of construction, or renovation.  These projects included The Museum of Clandestine Struggle, the La Violeta department store, both in Santiago the  Caney Fruti Cuba and the La Punta Fort in Baracoa.

As is very typical in Cuba, the museum is closed for an unknown period of time. The tile floor in the interior courtyard has been attributed to Betancourt.
As is very typical in Cuba, the museum is closed for an unknown period of time. The tile floor in the interior courtyard has been attributed to Betancourt.

This ability to enhance a project is what has allowed many of his buildings to continue to be part of the cultural heritage of Santiago, and why those that worked with him, and are still alive, remember him with great fondness.

The Museum of Clandestine Struggle, Santiago de Cuba, architectureHis most known renovation projects include the Sala Teatro in Bayamo, and this, the Museum of Clandestine Struggle.

Cuba has no real collective memory of its architectural heritage, so little is known about Betancourt’s life in Santiago, or his direct input to his restoration projects, but his love of the organic is most likely shown in his work, whether we recognize it directly or not.

Cuban Architecture

A second, and radically different project Betancourt worked on in Santiago de Cuba was the La Violeta store.

La Violeta in Santiago de Cuba

Some day maybe it will be easier to actually do research about Cuba’s past, but for now these photos and my fascination of Walter Betancourt’s work will have to suffice for proof of this fascinating mans touch on the eastern part of Cuba.