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History of Havana, Cuba 


The history of Havana, Cuba recognizes as date of foundation the 16th of November of 1519, when the Spanish conqueror Diego Velázquez - in the name of the Kings of Spain - established its third and definitive settlement, the present one.

Havana resurfaced on several occasions from the rubble and ashes that were occasionally reduced by French pirates and corsairs during the first half of the XVI century, that´s why the Spanish Crown decided to build military defenses at the entrance of La Havana bay and in strategic places and make it the best defended city of the New World.

Havana in the XVII Century 

During the XVII century the city is enlarged with monumental civil and religious constructions. The convent of San Agustin was built, the castle of El Morro is completed, and the hermitage of the Humilladero, the Dorotea de la Luna fountain in La Chorrera, the church of the Santo Angel Custodio, the hospital of San Lazaro, the monastery of Santa Teresa, the convent of San Felipe Neri, and in 1728 the Royal and Pontifical University of San Jeronimo was founded in the convent of San Juan de Letran.

Havana in the XVIII Century 

In the middle of the XVIII century, Havana had more than 70,000 inhabitants. On June 6th 1762, at dawn, an impressive British fleet appeared, with more than 50 ships and 14,000 men. To take the city, the Englishmen had to surrender the Castle of the Morro and Havana fell after two months of siege. Sir Georges Keppel ruled it for eleven months, until mid-1763, when the British men returned La Havana to the Spaniards, in exchange for Florida.

Since Spain no longer had a monopoly on trade, Havana became a more flourishing city, and in 1818 it was a free port. Luxury and voluptuousness were installed. The shops offered the last shout of fashion; the theaters received the best actors of the moment; the wealthy bourgeoisie commissioned to build splendid mansions with columns, people talked about the Paris of the Antilles. 

Havana in the XIX Century 

At the beginning of the XIX century, the German naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt arrived to Havana and he became impressed by the vitality of the Havanero port. In 1837, the first railway section of 51 km was inaugurated between Havana and Güines, which is used to transport sugar from the Ariguanabo Valley to the port of the city. With this, Spain becomes the fifth country in the world to have a railway (at the time, Cuba belonged to Spain) and the first of the Spanish speaking countries.

Throughout the century, Havana is enriched by cultural centers, such as the Teatro Tacon, one of the most luxurious in the world, the Liceo Artistico y Literario, the Coliseo Theater.

In 1863, the city walls were demolished so that the city could be expanded and constructed new and splendid buildings. At the end of the XIX century, the wealthy classes moved to the elegant neighborhood of Vedado, with its many villas and palaces.

At the end of the XIX century, Havana, after two wars of independence started by the Cuban patriots, lived the last moments of Spanish colonization in America, which is definitively closed when the American battleship Maine is sunk in its port, giving to the United States the pretext to invade the island and prevent its independence. The new century arrives in in Havana, and therefore in Cuba, under the occupation and government of the United States.

Havana in the XX Century

Under American influence, the city grew and became rich with many buildings in the 1930s, when sumptuous hotels, casinos and splendid nightclubs were built. Examples of these constructions are the Focsa, the Habana Libre and the Hotel Nacional. La Havana became the capital of gambling and corruption.

With the victory of the Revolution in 1959, led by Fidel Castro Ruz, great social transformations were made, mainly in relation to education, public health, services, construction of social housing and official buildings.

An extensive network of educational institutions guarantees access for all citizens to the most comprehensive educational services up to university level. The same happens with health services.

Many of these transformations were reflected in the constructions after 1959. Such are the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, the Art Schools of Cubanacán and the Hotel Meliá Cohiba.

Havana Today

The historic center of Havana was declared a National Monument by the Cuban Government in 1976 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Havana was one of the winners of the New7Wonders Cities Contest. The result was announced on December 7, 2014, and it showed how millions of inhabitants of the world chose the world’s seven most wonderful cities.

On June 7th 2016, it was officially conferred its status as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, distinguished mainly for its mythical appeal, the warm and welcoming of its environment, and the charisma and joviality of its inhabitants. On the esplanade of the San Salvador de la Punta Fortress, a World Heritage Site, at the entrance of the bay, the monument and the commemorative plaque were unveiled to endorse the recognition given.