Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 114

casinos of Nevada closed their doors and the Prohibition movement was organized. U.S. President William Howard Taft was lobbied hard by church interests to reject casino gambling so close to our shores. During the Spanish American War, President William McKinley had decreed that there be no more bullfighting in Cuba, calling the activity a disgraceful outrage. Taft, as expected, “bullied” the Cuban Congress to follow U.S. wishes as well. The casino legislation failed to pass. A second attempt was made to have casinos with taxes designed to support $1.5 million in construction of facilities for tourism in Marianao. One New Yorker, who had a contract to build a jai alai fonton and a grandstand for racing, sought to change Taft’s mind on the issue, but again, casinos were defeated as a result of the moralist campaign in the United States. However, gambling was in the cards for Cuba. In 1915, Havana’s Oriental Park opened for horse racing. In 1919, casino promoters promised that they would build the streets and plazas for Marianao if they could have casinos. Pres. Mario Menocal, who had been elected in 1917, supported a bill for casinos. The national legislature authorized a gambling hall for the resort on 5 August 1919. The 3 C’s group won the right to run the facility. In addition to land improvements for tourism, they agreed to a national tax that was designated for the health and welfare of poor mothers and their children. At the same time, President Menocal’s family won a concession to have jai alai games in Marianao. The tourism push was on, and patrons from the United States were the primary market, especially after Prohibition of alcoholic consumption came into effect for the whole country in 1919. The Roaring Twenties roared just outside of Havana. Several new luxurious hotels opened, each having a gaming room. Each successive presidency endorsed tourism and welcomed all investors. Even Al Capone opened a pool hall in Marianao in 1928. Then the Depression came, and so too did a movement for general social reform. Leaders openly condemned the degradation of casino gaming and other sin activities that had been widely offered to tourists. In 1933, the casinos were closed, and the Prohibition ended in the United States. The economy floundered. The next year, army sergeant Fulgencio Batista was able to oust Pres. Ramon Grau San Martin and install his own government. He ruled as chief of staff of the army while another held the presidency. At first Batista tried to bolster the notion of cultural tourism, but he could not resist allowing casinos to reopen—under the control of the military. Batista was very concerned about the honesty of the games. For sure, he would be 109