Hotel Dos Amigos

Located at Jovellanos No. 7901, between Contreras and Milanes Streets, the very name Dos Amigos Hotel (Two Friends Hotel) leaves no doubt that it was the result of the association of two friends.

Antonio Chong, the owner, arrived to Cuba in 1923, when he was 18 years of age, and became a Cuban citizen in 1945. From 1900 to 1952, the facility was operated as a small restaurant, under the same name, by Jose Chong and Jose Lin, the proprietors. The first was a relative of Antonio’s; while the latter joined the business and ran it since 1928.

Originally, the building was the property of Spaniards who rented the premises as a small restaurant and dwelling for Chinese. The name of the Spanish owner was Manuel Manso, who lived in Spain and traveled to Cuba to sell his properties.

Antonio Chong bought the establishment in 1946 or 1947. In 1952, it was refurbished as a hotel, by architect Enrique Marsell, who was in charge of the works. The hotel was opened on August 2nd, 1953. The Salon Puma, a private room, was among the additions.

During the period in which the property was bought and opened as a hotel, a series of new laws were passes by Fulgencio Batista’s government, for the purpose of increasing the country’s hotel capacities and boosting foreign tourism in Cuba, whose characteristics in this stage are well known.

When asked about the lack of advertisement of the hotel services, Antonio responded: “The best advertisements are the clients themselves; they are the ones who recommend the hotel. The most difficult years for the business, although it was not a hotel at the time, were experienced during the Machado regime when employees worked without being paid and a complete meal was worth 10 cents, practically generating only losses. However, we opted not to shut down.” Together with the Hotel Yara, it was one of the last hotels to be nationalized by the state, in March 1968.

Francisco Diaz Varona, provincial director of the National Tourism Institute (INIT), also took part in this nationalization process during the second half of the sixties known as the “revolutionary offensive.” Slowly and deliberately, as if we were back in the sixties, he said: “I remember I was told to be careful in the way I treated the owners, since they were very decent people. They were very understanding and their reaction was not that of attacking or confronting the measures passed by the Revolution. They simply said they needed a place to live in, since the proprietors, the Chong family, lived in the hotel. Some of the employees who also lived there were given good houses and even improved their salary.” Edilia Estupinan Acosta, Antonio Chong’s wife, spoke to me about that moment and her experience concurs with what Varona expressed. She referred to the courteous treatment they received and that they only asked for a place to live in. Their request was granted.

They still live in that same house, at Milanes No. 30815, between Capricho and San Gabriel Streets. Nationalization brought them peace. They had worked very hard and felt rather insecure, since they wanted to send their children to the university, which was finally possible under the Revolution.

After nationalization, the property continued to operate as a hotel, with successive periods of closure, restoration and reopening, until the eighties. It is currently a restaurant serving meals to families, in an effort to alleviate the present situation of shortages.

The architectural design of this two-story building is very simple, with a plain parapet and molded cornices. The openings in the wall are protected with molded dust shields on corbels and the walls of its plain façade are paneled. Neither its structure or spaces have suffered important transformations; the most significant change after nationalization was the replacement of the firewood stove with a more modern one.