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Asian spirituality at the Cortina Farm

Published: 2018.01.03 - 16:19:52   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

jose manuel cortinaThey say that José Manuel Cortina was one of the most prominent Cuban diplomats and speakers before the Triumph of the Revolution. He was famous for his political career and positions in different government Cabinets of the time.

However, this gentleman was also famous for his properties. They say that he owned land in several provinces of the country. He was the owner of the big building that rises to the side of the University of Havana, and that at the moment it is known as Casa de la Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU). However, his refined aesthetic taste and the most popular stories about his customs found a perfect refuge in the Cortina Farm, a pleasant oasis of inspiration and refined ornaments that harmonize with nature in the La Güira National Park, in Los Palacios, Pinar del Río.

According to research, José Manuel Cortina acquired these lands in 1906, shortly after graduating as a lawyer. As it is said, the lawyer had as a client the family that owned those lands; upon winning the trial and in reward for his work, he was given a portion of the property.

Thus, little by little, Cortina made sure that his possession grew and in 1940, he managed 1423 caballerias of land: that became one of the largest farms in the country.

Actually, the lawyer always took care that his property had a certain mystical air and combined refined designs with environmental solutions that allowed it to come into direct contact with nature, enjoy and protect it. In this way, a man-made lake was built from the nearby San Diego River to enjoy boat rides.

Asian spirituality at the Cortina FarmHis project planned to build the most lavish recreation farm in the country: elegant gardens were designed; bronze lanterns; squares with benches, gazebos and sculptures; and trees were planted that marked the path to a two-story residence, which was built in 1924 with precious woods and limestone.

In his plan, Cortina included medieval styles and resumed essences from different cultures such as Japanese. This can be seen in the varied tropical flora that includes plants from Asia, Europe and Latin America, in the dissimilar species of fauna that live there and in the customs that the rich owner of that colossal place had.

According to what they say, in the 30s of the twentieth century, Jamaican workers, Haitians, Danes, Galicians, Mexicans and Japanese worked for José Manuel. Many of the students of the architecture of the time consider that initially one of the main attractions of the premises were the Japanese (1920) and Chinese (1940) houses. The interior adornments also corresponded with those cultures to the point that an important collection of objects and works was forged there, which was considered to be a national exponent of Asian civilization.

People say that in the time of its foundation, you could see allegorical tapestries of the Manchu tinsel, oxidized cauldrons between silk cushions and a Mongolian life-sized warrior from the time of Genghis Khan.

However, the most interesting thing is that there was a room on the farm identified as "La vivienda del Buda", where José Manuel Cortina met with his friends. There, according to popular wisdom, different oriental customs were practiced, such as the use of slippers, the burning of incense and the repose of the body and soul. The legend has given so much brilliance to his life story such as the building itself, which he ordered to build and it still impresses visitors.

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