On Isla de Juventud, the prison of Presidio Modelo serves as a reminder of the regimes that came before Castro. It is located right outside of Nueva Gerona, the island’s small capital. Presidio Modelo means “model prison” in English, and was designed to help Cuban authorities deal with a large number of prisoners with fewer guards.
This prison could hold as many as 5,000 prisoners. It was built between 1926 and 1931, and was closed in 1967. Visitors will observe four circular yellow blocks in the middle of the complex. Each of these blocks has five stories of cells. Inside, Presidio Modelo’s circular prison blocks have small towers in the middle, allowing the guards to observe prisoners on all sides with as little effort as possible. This type of design is called a panopticon.
Presidio Modelo held Fidel Castro between 1953 and 1955, as well as other important rebels. After Castro gained control, he had his own political dissidents imprisoned here. Now you can visit his cell to see an exhibit on his time spent in prison.