Launched in 1939 on a lush, tropical 24000 square metre estate called Villa Mina, Tropicana Club stands today as one of the most famous and influential nightclubs that Havana had to offer.
Based in a neighbourhood known as Marianao, The Tropicana evolved from a Depression-era bohemian nightclub that was called Eden Concert and owned by Victor de Correa.
It was only when two casino owners approached the Cuban nightclub owner to open a combination casino and cabaret club, that the world-known Tropicana Club came to life. Though the casino is no longer in play, Tropicana still operates as a cabaret show to this day.
The History of Tropicana Club
Casino operators, Rafael Mascaro and Luis Butler, along with nightclub owner Victor de Correa moved to cut a deal with Guillermina Perez Chaumont (known as MIna), who owned the Villa Mina. Victor de Correa then moved his company of dancers, singers and musicians into a converted mansion that resided on the estate. Thus, with de Correa providing entertainment as well as food, and Mascaro and Bular operating the casino that was found in the dining room of the mansion, Tropicana was on its way to success.
The club was originally called El Beau Site; it was renamed to Club Tropicana, which stems from its lush tropical gardens and the last two letters of Mina, the original owner. After opening on the 30th of December 1939, the club increased in popularity to an enormous extent, attracting celebrity acts and even celebrity audiences, such as Nat King Cole, Ernest Hemingway, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marlon Brando. This was, of course, before the outbreak of WWI and the Cuban Revolution.
Martin Fox & The Tropicana
Martin Fox was an uneducated, yet well-connected gambler who started renting table space in the casino. By 1950, Fox had made enough profit to take over the lease of the entire casino and in 1951 toppled Victor de Correa. Fox then appointed Alberto Ardura and Oscar Echemendia to operate the club, with The Tropicana soon to become one of the most famous nightclubs in America.
Tropicana Mob Involvement
In 1954 Tampa’s newly appointed godfather of Tampa, Santo Trafficante Jr, along with Meyer Lansky moved to Havana, after congressional hearings on mob activities by the US threatened his operations. After Lansky then became the highest sindicate figure in Cuba, he appointed Trafficante as his second in command.
Trafficante had stakes in The Tropicana and The Sans Souci within a few years, both of which served meals and drinks at a price to cover operating costs. However, profits amounted to around $5000 a day after deductions. In fact, both Trafficante and Lansky avoided gambling because they knew the odds.
Post-Revolution Tropicana Club
The Cuban Revolution had a huge impact on this thriving establishment, and not just because it brought about the banning of gambling and the nationalisation of hotels. With the mob’s involvement in Cuba and tensions rising, The Tropicana bar area was bombed and a woman lost her arm.
It is not clear how much involvement the mob actually had, but records state that the Fox Family continued to have full control over the club, right up until they left Cuba. Though the casino is no longer running, the Tropicana Club Cabaret Shows still attract tourists from all over the world.