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Maybe it’s just *Godfather II*, but there’s always been a certain mystique surrounding pre-Castro Havana. For a few years, it was on its way to becoming the Vegas of the Caribbean—that is, a city almost completely controlled by the mob. It operated under a kind of resort colonialism, with a government whose main concern seemed to be developing new cocktail recipes and keeping the showgirls coming.

Luckily, it’s not completely lost to history. Boing Boing pointed us to Peter Moruzzi’s *Havana Before Castro*, a quick, colorful tour of the city as a tropical playground. It doubles as a primer in 50s luxury, the beach look back when Miami was still just retirees and sailors.

Some of the spots are still there, if you feel like dodging the travel embargo, but this book may be as close as you’ll get.

More pictures after the jump»

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