Great Pre-Castro Cuban Brands

MatusalemIn honor of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, we examine Havana-related brand names

HAVANA – We all have nostalgia for pre-Castro Cuba, and this is the year to remember what was, especially as Jan 1 is the 50th anniversary of when Fidel Castro declared victory over Fulgencio Batista‘s government.

We can look back on some of the great Cuban brands associated with Havana. To get there, we would have had to take a steamship from the Spanish Line, Saguenay Shipping Ltd, West Indian Fruit & Steamship Co., Inc. or the S.S. City of Havana, which ferried cars between Havana and Stock Island, Florida.

If we were flying, we could have taken:

  • Q Airways from West Palm to Isle of Pines on a DC-4.
  • Guest Airlines, flying DC-3s and Viscounts
  • Cubana Airlines, with their Viscounts and Britannias
  • Pan American World Airways, from Miami, flying DC-7Bs, DC-6Bs and DC-7cs

Rum and Cigar BrandsPan AM Ticket BrandlandUSA

  • Bacardi rum
  • Matusalem (also known as Matusa) rum
  • Top cigar brands included Monte Christo (#4 was best), H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey, Larranaga and Partagas

Hotel Brand Names

  • Nacional: The grand hotel of Havana
  • The Hilton, (Habana Libre), at the revolution a new luxury hotel. This Hilton was known for its Sugar Bar on the roof. Fidel was known to hang out there. Commie dictators always love the fancy new Western places, don’t they!

Restaurant Brands

  • Floridita: The most famous restaurant and home of the frozen daiquiri, reputedly the best in the world, and the mulata, made with different dark rums. Pompano baked in a bag was a specialty too.
  • Trader Vic’s: Yes, there was a Trader Vic’s in the Hilton.Pan Am Ticket
  • La Roca: This was a business lunch spot favored by Americans.
  • Tally-Ho: French food in English decor.
  • Prilla’s: Cuban society spot
  • La Rue 19: Another French spot
  • Mes Amis: Frenchy but with American customers, with host Tony Gorrodi, who was the pianist
  • El Carmelo: Open air terrace dining
  • El Palacio De Cristal: Western food
  • La Zaragozana: Established in 1830, known for rabbit and Galacian stew
  • La Bodeguita Del Medio: A bohemian restaurant, with walls covered in celeb photos
  • Churley’s Louisiana: American gathering spot with hot fudge sundaes.
  • Sloppy Joe’s: The famous bar/spot at Zulueta and Animas.
  • The Yank: An American owned steak house on the road near Arroyo Arenas.


  • Tropicana: The government took it over; it was an old Spanish mansion with two shows each night
  • Hotel nightclubs included the Casino Parisien, Caribe Room, Copa Room and Casino.
  • Bambu Club: aCuban nightclub.
  • Mambo: Known for “unescorted” women who would ”retire with you to a back room.”
  • Shanghai Theater: a burlesque closed by the Castro regime.

Retail Brand Bames

  • El Encanto, at Galiano and San Rafael Streets, a giant department store
  • Fin dee Siglo, another chic department store
  • Woolworth’s: Yes, there was a Woolworth’s.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. Terry..havent had any response yet but i hope someone will have an answer soon… there is a U.S. graphic designer going to Cuba who hopes to document Cuban brand history.

  2. Approximately 2 years prior to Castro, my father, Elmo Gideon supplied 1,000 original pieces of art work for The Hotel Nacional and the Havana Hilton. He sculpted 7 or 8 bas relief pieces which were hung in the auditorium of the El Colony Hotel in the Isle of Pines.

    He would travel between Miami and Cuba where he would spend the week days returning to Miami on the weekends. He created the work and physically hung everything by himself.

    He passed away December 21, 2010.

    Is there any way to determine if all or a portion of the art has survived Castro? Do you have any suggestions as to how I might find out?

    I understand you are on vacation thru June. I await your reply and thank you for any help you might offer.

    Terry Markham
    4202 Buttonwood Drive
    Nixa, MO 65714

  3. There were not just one, but at least 5 Woolworth’ s Stores (Ten Cents) in Havana:
    1- Monte
    2- Obispo
    3- 10 de Octubre
    4- La Copa
    5- Galiano

  4. No, Aguilera Hardware wasnt listed in the guidebook as it wasnt for the American audience. Perhaps another reader has some information or an old telephone book.

  5. Do you recall the address of L.G. Aguilera Hardware Store in Havana?

    Many thanks

    E. Gracia

  6. Se recuerda ud. donde estaba la Ferreteria
    L.G. Aguilera en la Habana?


  7. El Palacio de Cristal was at San Jose and Consulado Streets. Old guidebooks had it as top notch, but continental food and for “serious businessmen and visiting firemen.”

  8. Donde esta El Palacio de Cristal.

  9. A few listed from another blog, havanajournal

    Matusalem Anejo Superior
    Havana Club seven years old
    Ron Santiago 45 Aniversario
    Havana Club Gran Reserva
    Varadero seven years old

    Havana Club three years old
    Los Marinos Paticruzados five years old
    Caribbean Club five years old
    Havana Club five years old

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