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Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal, Dies at 77

Eusebio Leal took Barack Obama on a tour of Old Havana during his visit to Cuba in March, 2016. Photo: Nestor Marti

HAVANA TIMES (dpa) – Cuban historian Eusebio Leal, who restored the colonial beauty of portions of old Havana and helped to turn the city into a tourist attraction, died Friday at the age of 77, the ruling Communist Party’s Granma newspaper reported without giving details.

Leal oversaw the renewal of dilapidated Havana, organizing the restoration of emblematic buildings such as the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana, El Morro castle, the National Capitol and hundreds of houses.

His work as a Havana historian was not only driven by “the insatiable search for documents or objects, but rather the obsession for something much more substantial, which is culture as the supreme creation of man,” he said on receiving a German decoration in 2017.

In 1982, old Havana and its fortifications were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Born in Havana in 1942, Leal started working at the capital’s administration in 1959 and became the director of the City Museum a decade later.

His Catholic faith did not prevent him from joining the Communist Party’s Central Committee and from becoming a lawmaker at the National Assembly.

In recent years, Leal appeared less in public, but still showed Havana to royal visitors from Britain and Spain.

“Today we have lost the Cuban who saved Havana … and did it so passionately that his name is no longer just his, but synonymous with the city,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Twitter.