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The Quinta Avenida Clock
Since 1927 or perhaps a few more years back, the Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) Clock Tower was already looking over the Cuban capitals would-be and still in construction main artery. The Tower formed part of a series of plastic art works such as the Fountain of the Americas that presides the wide artery lined with trees from the mouth of the Almendares River to a formerly popular beach in Marianao. The architect, designer of the water jet in 1924, is also author of the bell tower: George H. Duncan, famous New York-born author, among other things, the Ulysses S. Grant monument. Perhaps, for this reason, whenever an exact date is required, the construction of the clock tower is traced back to the period 1921-1924.

Accompanied by musical tolling at the exact hour, on every quarter, halves and three quarters of hour, this clock has been informing passers-by for 75 years, that time is predictable and compelling. Most probably very few have noticed its persistence. Passing through Fifth Avenue, on a vehicle and at full speed, impedes perceiving the validity and exactness of the chronometer, which from an over 10- meter height, dominates as usual.

The origin of the bell tower, with its four spheres, dates back to the emerging of the Miramar residential zone. And because of that early relationship, on November 3, 1993 the National Assembly decreed to declare the Clock Tower a symbol of Playa Municipality. Evocation is no longer possible of the former 366 acre- cattle ranch, dormant by the breeze and smell of the sea, on the northeastern end of Marianao. It was called La Miranda, and it belonged to José Morales Martínez, who had a leasing on those lands from the heirs of a certain Count Ibañez for an annual sum of 600 pesos. As attested in the documents it was year the 1901.

The cows grazed till near 1911, in areas by the coast, because that year the new owner and former foreman Manuel José Morales, requested the City Hall an urbanization license. Since then the name of Miramar began to appear among papers and purposes, and among postponements and promises. Finally in 1916, the urban layout and facilities began to be traced. A new owner came into the scene, wealthy and resourceful, famous for his true and false aureole, which in summary defined Don José López Rodríguez - popularly known as Pote- one of the most polemic characters of his time. Newspapers and rumors of that epoch commented that he would enter the Presidential Palace "in short sleeves", disregarding the fashion norms of that time that demanded complete suit and stiff collar, and that he had become lined in money from manipulating the capital of business people in the sugar industry.

Associated with Ramón González Mendoza, Pote kindled the expansion of Miramar, a residential zone Havana residents had originally agreed to rebaptize as Nuevo Vedado. In 1918, (zenith of the "dance of the millions" period, sugarcane acme resulting from the ruin of sugar beet industry in Europe in the early days of World War I) palace-like residences began to show their exclusivity in bricks. On February 27, 1921, the Miramar Bridge, also called Potes Bridge, chained Calzada del Vedado Street- a modern neighborhood along the western shoreline- to what decades later was to become the splendid Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue). Metallic, and denoting good taste, the oscillating passageway replaced a rope bridge that allowed crossing the Almendares River near its mouth on the northern side.

Curiously, one month later on March 29, 1921, Pote committed suicide. The 1921 economic crisis cast him down to the bottom of bankruptcy, though the press revealed that the safe in his library La Moderna Poesía- still standing today in Havana City, as senior among culture entities of this sort- kept 10 million pesos, a sum that was then worth far beyond its value today. The tragedy evoked suspicion. There may have been indeed something suspicious about his death. One thing is evident though.., the rich endure everything, except not being rich anymore or being less rich.

The Miramar Bridge disappeared from the Havana inventory. A tunnel snatched its validity as of 1953. Another underground wired street, Línea Street, replaced the tramway bridge, which was transferred to 11th Street, and today is known as the Iron Bridge. But the name of Pote did not fade away upon the demolition of the viaducts girders that he financed along with others; it wound up on the Clock Tower. Havana lineage dwellers recognize the tower as " Potes clock". The name of José López Rodríguez was engraved on its four bells. It was another work among the many with which the entrepreneur tried to transform the former cattle ranch into a splendid oasis for magnates.

The clock has the credit of being the only one. Its clockmaker, Roberto Sánchez Cañamero, believes it is probably unique in Havana. Its four aspects describe the main directions of the compass. Its machinery, located in the ground floor, moves the minute/hour hands by transmission. The clock bears three weights of over one meter long and some 50 centimeters wide, and the clockwork lasts more than forty hours, although we have not seen it working during the last few weeks. The tower, erected on rocks from Jaimanitas- a nearby zone where that type of ornamental rock abounds- and crowned by a tile hip roof, also displays a clock that is original for the musical notes of its tolling.

Source: By Luis Sexto, CubaNow

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