You may write your remembrances and tributes in the “Leave a Reply” box below. Some remembrances were written before we created this page; they are listed below. Click on the name to open.
Frederico de Holanda
Frank and Jenny Phillips
I had the pleasure of meeting Mario in 2012 as part of a US delegation to consult on Hemmingway’s Finca Vigia. Mario’s tour and personal interpretation of El Parque de los Mártires Universitarios was one of the highlights of my first experience in Cuba. Not only did he explain the design inspiration, but the fabrication and construction process which was used to leave a void in the concrete of each of the students killed. Mario’s passion and commitment to Cuba and great design was felt and remembered from my short time with him. My prayers and best wishes to his family and colleagues.
Cuando me enteré del fallecimiento de Mayito me vinieron a la mente un montón de recuerdos de tantos momentos compartidos con el Grupo para el desarrollo integral de la capital (GDIC), con los participantes en proyectos comunitarios, con los afanes para la publicación de su novela Catalina y la revista Arquitectura y Urbanismo… Agradezco les hayan extendido nuestras condolencias a Marta, a su hijo Miguel y toda su familia. Aquí siempre les seguiremos queriendo mucho ya que Mayito fue un verdadero ejemplo para todos los dominicanos que trabajan por mejorar sus ciudades. Uno de estos compañeros, el Arq. José Chiqui Sánchez, me dijo anoche: “creo que ahora, lejos del desorden territorial que nos enseñó a diagnosticar, Mayito estará diseñando el ordenamiento del espacio de Gloria que le toca”. Nada más cierto. Un abrazo para todos los viejos amigos cubanos como Gina, Cari, Aurelio, Yolanda, Choy, Manelo… hoy los tengo más presentes y pareciera que estoy con ustedes caminando por La Habana de siempre que tanto amamos y que Mayito nos enseñó a quererla más aún. Otro abrazo,
Rafael Emilio Yunén
Consultores y Asesores Profesionales (CAP)
Santiago de los Caballeros, República Dominicana
Tel: (809) 583-4144 * Fax: (809) 583-4125 * firstname.lastname@example.org *
I had the honor and pleasure or sharing many years with Mario as he educated our groups about Cuba, not only in his field of architecture and history but his gracious perceptions about what was right and wrong with Cuba. His concern of the people and the environment was as huge as his concern for the “scape” of Havana. He was a true friend and mentor. I am lucky enough to still be a part of his life through Marta and Miguel. Mario will be sorely missed, but his memory will be live on through all that he accomplished and through his wonderful family. For those of us who really got to know him, we have been blessed with something very special.
I first met Mario Coyula while in Havana in 1997 when I was a Master’s student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. This was the beginning of a very special friendship for me. As I know that others will comment on Mario’s contributions to architeture and urban design, I want to write a rememberance that helps to remember Mario for his generosity to scholars of Cuba.
Mario made an incredible difference to helping foreign scholars understand Cuba. An example of his work is illustrated in his collaborations with Harvard University. Mario came to Harvard University as a Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor in 2001-2. His ties to Harvard University continued to grow over the years. He generously hosted many groups of Harvard faculty and students visiting Cuba and he contributed often to the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies’ Cuban Studies Program. In 2012, he returned as a visiting scholar once again to Harvard University. At numerous times, he contributed to ReVista: Harvard’s Review of Latin America and he was always willing to be interviewed by scholars of Cuba at Harvard University.
I always will remember Mario Coyula as inspiring and deeply caring human being. I am so thankful to Mario for his generosity, through each lecture, each article, each walking tour, each activity, he helped us all so much to better understand the complex and dynamic processes underway in his beloved country. He never tired of working to contribute to the development and preservation of his beloved Havana.
Gracias Mario! We miss you so much and are so lucky to count on your many contributions which will continue to help to contribute to the causes and issues you so passionately worked to understand and change.
To Marta, to Miguel and to his family, I send you my deepest condolences.
Un fuerte abrazo y todo mi cariño,
Lorena G. Barberia
To Mario Coyula —
In the worst of times, you carried on
with so little, yet doing so much.
What man could have loved Cuba
or his beloved Havana more?
Who could have given more to his craft,
or to his art?
Unassuming and genteel, a man of substance,
and above all, a real Revolutionary.
You gave generously and asked nothing.
Someday your city will hear you ,
what you tried to tell it.
I thank you for the 30 years of friendship,
sharing those memories of our youth in the
dangerously exciting 1950’s,
your poetry, your pain,
and how you missed your Porsche.
Making your home mine,
enriching my life with your beloved Marta, son Miguel,
Carmencita in Miami, Ricardo and Jackie in Washington,
brilliant Dr. Tche, and, oh, of course, Catalina.
You are not gone Mario.
In your words, and in each of us, you live on.
Mario Coyula and I met ten years ago, when I was researching the history of Havana’s architecture. I had begun collecting old picture postcards of Havana dating from the early 1900s, and was traveling frequently to Havana to photograph the same places. I had many questions: Where were the buildings located? Who designed them? Who built them? When? What were they used for then and what now?
As my work progressed, I began to envision creating a combination of images and text, and I needed answers my questions. In searching for scholars to help me, I contacted architect Leland Cott, then a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Lee kindly introduced me to Mario, who could not have been more gracious and supportive. With his help, and that of other architects, urban planners and historians, I could gather the material I needed to produce a book. Mario agreed to write three chapters and wrote an essay recounting the history of Havana’s development that became the introduction to “Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage.”
Mario and I saw one another on many occasions. I went to Chautauqua, New York, to hear him speak in August 2009. Later, we put together an informal presentation on the architecture of Boston, which was given at the Maqueta de la Habana in Miramar. Mario and Marta stayed with me in Boston for several weeks during the fall of 2011, when he lectured at Harvard and MIT, and I stayed with them at their home in Vedado. Mario was a treasured friend to me, as he was to many others. I am honored to have known him.
— Cathryn Griffith, Boston, Massachusetts
This is just an anecdote, perhaps a bit whimsical, but so Mayito.
In 1997 when I finished the draft for Revolution of Forms, Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools, I sent it to Mario to review, comment, and check for errors of fact and/or interpretation. He paid extraordinary attention to the task checking and correcting all sorts of names, dates, places, expanding my interpretations, challenging me intellectually and also providing valuable new information and insight. Then, as if that was not enough, Mario went above and beyond the call to duty and ever the professor, copy edited and, much to my eternal embarrassment, corrected – ¡my English! – spelling and grammar.
He then kindly and gently chided me for these errors, saying I should have known better. I felt like I was back in middle school.
Ayi Mayito, como me haces falta.
I am tearing up as I write this.
When I was getting ready to go and work in Cuba with professors of English in 1992, I was given an introduction to Mayito and told, “If you want to know what’s really going on, this is the guy to talk to.” Though what I was doing had nothing to with El Grupo’s work or Mario’s, he graciously said to come meet him at El Grupo, where we sat in the courtyard and talked about everything from the current crisis to la maqueta and community planning to what had become of the new towns I had visited in 1970 when on the Venceremos Brigade. He was as advertised: knowledgeable, genuine, committed, and forthright. When I came back again the next year, this time with my partner Nancy Falk, we had another equally far-ranging conversation at Mayito and Marta’s house. Topics that time included the need for locally-based cooperative enterprises in many sectors including tourism — an idea of Mayito’s (not his alone, of course, but championed by him) with which Cuban reality may finally, someday soon, catch up. Fingers crossed, anyway. When Rafael Hernández and I began work on our History of Havana, Mario again was quick to be helpful, providing articles, anecdotes, perspectives, and more — especially about, but not limited to, his beloved El Vedado. When Cathryn Griffith needed a translator for the essays by architects and historians and planners for what became her volume Havana Revisited, Mayito sent her to me.
In short, for me and for others, he always epitomized those adjectives that describe an essential part of the Cuban character — servicial, hospitalario — right alongside his commitments to preservation, change, sustainable development, and democratic socialism. It was an honor to have met and, in a small way, worked with him.
I remember Mayito with great affection and appreciate all he has done to promote a participatory approach to urban planning and architecture, unusual in such a celebrated architect and artist. On both a personal level and a professional level, Mayito is among the people I most admire. I first met him in 1980; we shared our concerns regarding the top-down neighborhood planning that was the norm in Havana at the time and he spoke of his and others’ efforts to challenge this approach. Later, he and others developed neighborhood workshops aimed at combining social and physical planning and encouraging participation by residents, seeking to overcome barriers to bottom-up planning. Later, with Mayito’s encouragement, Mel King and I had the opportunity to work with the staff of the neighborhood workshops helping to develop participatory methods for their work. Each time I visited Cuba, whether to facilitate workshops or as a tourist, Mayito took time from his busy schedule to spend with me, sharing his wisdom, his warmth and his humor. He will be deeply missed.
I had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting with Mayito during several trips to Havana. He was truly an exceptional individual and professional, a terrific urban critic with a deep sense of history, complexity in politics, and a tremendously sly sense of humor. His creative leadership with the Grupo para el Desarrollo Integral de la Ciudad helped launch new approaches to planning in Havana and instill a greater appreciation for its diverse neighborhoods. When I helped edit an English version of one of his articles for publication in Latin American Perspectives, I could really appreciate the incredible complexity of his work. Mayito’s contributions to the Cuban Revolution will endure.
One of the great moments of serendipity in my life was to attend to the Caribbean Studies Association meetings held in Havana 24 years ago. Two presentations stood out in the series of talks at the Palacio de Convenciones: One by Roberto Segre and the other by Mayito.
At that time, the maqueta de La Habana was under construction and there was great excitement about bringing this tool—the three-D scaled model of the city—to the public’s attention. The goal was that it would be a self-financing venture that would allow the network of talleres (workshops) to connect with the interdisciplinary team at the Grupo para el Desarrollo Integral de la Cuidad.
Mayito was at the helm.
His demeanor as a great intellect, friend, and most of all, mentor, came to the forefront when the three of us began writing Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis for the London publishing house, John Wiley. Whereas Segre would fire off ideas left and right, Mayito was even keeled, an attribute that characterized my professional and personal relationship with him.
Never showy, always well reasoned, and extremely patient and forgiving, Mayito took me—at the time a mere jóven mocoso—under his wing, and shared with me insights about his beloved city that I can only now come to fully appreciate. More than a hundred students from Virginia Tech benefited from his lectures and guided walks.
Before the onset of his illness a few years back, I had the great pleasure of taking him to the sculptor who crafted the bust of his grandfather. Like the pride he had for his son Miguel, Mayito was always proud that his ancestor was known for honest governance and good public administration. [A photograph of Mario’s grandfather’s bust in the sculptor’s studio is pictured on this blog under the tabs Photos: Miscellaneous Photographs.]
His appreciation for the finer aesthetics of his dear Havana covered a wide range of topics and short essays: From the ‘bulla’ that rose up from the discotheque at the Hotel Riviera that carried over his apartment balcony, to the state telephone company ETECSA’s rabid habit of pruning back the lovely green canopies of Vedado, he brought an important humanistic element to his work that is often overshadowed by master mega-plans, new technologies, and short-lived trends. Quality of life was a topic he wove in and out of his professional and personal life, something that few planners and architects do as seamlessly as Mario Coyula Cowley did.
Alas, Mayito, part of a generation of what I call the ‘last gentlemen’—los últimos caballeros—spun grace, wit, intellect, and charm in everything he did and touched. For that I will be forever grateful.
Mario Coyula – un tributo personal
Esta es solo una anécdota , quizas un poco caprichosa, pero asi era Mayito.
En 1997 cuando yo termine completamente el primer borrador de Revolution of Forms, Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools, se lo mande a Mario, al igual que a otros en Cuba, para que lo revisaran, comentaran, y chequearan todos los errores posibles además de la interpretación. El presto una extraordinaria atención a esta tarea, chequeando y corrigiendo nombres, fechas, lugares, expandiendo y criticando mi interpretación, retándome intelectualmente, además de darme una percepción nueva junto a una valiosa información .
Entonces, como si eso no fuera suficiente, Mario se fue por encima y más allá del llamado del deber y como profesor, copiaba editada y, para mi vergüenza eterna, corregia – ¡mi Inglés! – ortografía y gramática.
Entonces amablemente y gentilmente me reprendió por estos errores, diciendo que debería saberlo mejor. Me sentí como si estuviera de vuelta en la escuela media.
Ayi Mayito, como me haces falta.
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