MADRID, Spain.- The Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana is no longer remotely what it once was; neither is its ice cream, nor its service, nor its environment. Inaugurated on June 4, 1966 in the central capital corner of L and 23, in El Vedado, with the capacity to serve about a thousand people at a time and more than 20 flavors and combinations, it soon became a space for concurrence. It is still a point of confluence and reference; It is still said: “two blocks from Coppelia”, “at the turn of Coppelia”.
With a structure in the form of a reinforced concrete spider, a fusion between a singular architectural work and social use, the construction, which is considered an icon of modern Cuban architecture, where prefabricated elements were combined with others forged in situ, with a central circular dome surrounded by gardens, is the authorship of the Cuban born in Manzanillo, Mario Girona Fernández (1924-2008), who had the collaboration of the architects Rita María Grau and Candelario Ajuria, and the engineers Maximiliano Isoba and Gonzalo Paz.
Girona, who was a tenured professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Havana, participated in numerous significant buildings such as the National Zoo, the hotel capri and the Guamá Tourist Center in the Laguna del Tesoro.
Coppelia, whose name was inspired by the famous ballet of the same name, was built where the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes hospital was, inaugurated in the 1980s, a pioneering medical-surgical center on the island, where prominent professionals worked health at the time. Demolished in 1954, the land was put up for sale and bought by an American company to build a hotel, but the project did not materialize.
Then there was a recreation center and later a cabaret. Until in a Congress held in the nearby Habana Libre hotel, it was decided to replace it with a quieter and more familiar space, which would become one of the largest ice cream parlors in the world, to the point that it has been called the cathedral of ice cream.
From then on it would become a favorite place for meetings, regular walks on Saturdays and Sundays; A must for those who came to Havana from any part of the country, and even from abroad. It was also part of the program for moviegoers who went to see the premiere movie at the Yara cinema and then crossed the street in search of ice cream.
However, for years Coppelia has been receiving multiple reviews due to the loss of quality, the prices, the decrease in the size of the balls, the few flavors, the hot water, the inefficient service and so on.
The Coppelia ice cream parlor has as an added value having been one of the scenes of the emblematic film Strawberry and Chocolate, directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío.