Cuba Before Castro, The Glamour of Pre-Revolution Cuba Will Shock You

Cuban Socialite Aline Johnson de Menocal and friend Nina Gomez de Freyre receiving manicures. Havana, Cuba 1946. Photographer- Nina Leen.

What was Cuba like before Castro? Before the Revolution of 1959? The answer will probably make you more than a little uncomfortable. Today the country that was once one of the most glamorous places in the hemisphere, is just a shadow of its former self. Before the Revolution that set Cuba into a downward spiral, it was a glittering place ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in car ownership, and first in the number of TVs owned per person (source). Currently less than five percent of Cubans even have access to the internet. That said, income inequality was huge in the era presented in these photographs. The wealthy, like socialite Aline Johnson de Menocal, the woman you see in the photographs below, lived like royalty compared to your average Cuban person. It was another time, another world altogether.

Subject: Socialite (debutante) Aline Johnson de Menocal meeting with her personal staff to plan a party. Havana, Cuba 1946. Photographer: Nina Leen/Time Inc Owned.
Socialite (debutante) Aileen Johnson Menocal eating breakfast in bed. Painting above her is supposedly her Mother painted as Madonna? Havana, Cuba 1946. Photographer: Nina Leen/Time Inc Owned.
September 1958: American cars parked in front of President Batista’s palace at Havana. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Cuban Socialite Aline Johnson de Menocal and friend Nina Gomez de Freyre receiving manicures. Havana, Cuba 1946. Photographer- Nina Leen.
Cuban socialite Aline Johnson de Menocal with friends posing by a swimming pool. Havana, Cuba 1946. Photographer- Nina Leen/Time Inc Owned.
Three women perched on the bar at the Cabaret Kursal nightclub in Havana, Cuba, circa 1950. (Photo by Herbert C. Lanks/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Outdoor party with silk canopies for socialites attending parties of Cuba’s first lady La condesa de Comargo. Havan, Cuba 1950. Photographer: Eliot Elisofon/Time Inc Owned.
Cuban Socialite party where the Mothers chaperone their unmarried daughters. Party of socialite La Condesa de Comargo. Havana, Cuba 1950. Photographer: Eliot Elisofon/Time Inc Owned.
Havana, Cuba, 1954, photo by Eve Arnold

Natalia Borecka

Natalia is the editor in chief and publisher of Lone Wolf Magazine. She founded the publication in 2012.

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