The dome of the capitolio nacional is a landmark that can be seen from many parts of Havana, Cuba. The building sits between Centro Habana and Habana Vieja (the partially restored old city).
The area immediately surrounding the capitolio nacional is a locus of tourist scam activities. Jinteras (female escorts) ply their trade. Boxes of counterfeit Cohiba cigars are sold as supposedly swiped from the factory in dark rooms across the street from the capitol. In all fairness, I was badgered by people whispering “Psst! Want to buy a cigar?” everywhere I went in Cuba—so it is not just the capitol area that is awash in these counterfeits.
The capitolio nacional was built by American-backed strongman Gerardo Machado in the late 1920s. In tribute to those who kept him in power, the exterior mimics the capitol building in Washington. Inside the building, you can wander the aisles of the senate and house of representives chambers. My sense is that there was never any serious attempt at bicameral representative democracy.
Today, the capitolio nacional is mostly an empty tourist attraction. You can see in my photo of the Salon de los Pasos Perdidos (Great Hall of the Lost Steps, so named because of its acoustic properties) that someone waxes the floor and keeps the place clean. A large diamond used to sit in the entrance hall to mark the zero point for all Cuban travel distances. The diamond has been replaced with a facsimile. Rumour has it that the real diamond sits in Fidel’s office.
Exposure data: Nikon D300, 10.5mm digital fisheye, two exposures (0.25 of a second and 0.6 of a second) combined in Photoshop using layers and masking, each exposure at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.