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  Havana
 

On an undetermined day in 1512, the people of Villa San Cristobal of Havana settled down next to the Port of Carenas. They left behind the remains of two important settlements: the first on the south coast; the second one, according to the records and testimonials would have been near the Puentes Grandes neighborhood, called Pueblo Viejo, next to the rapids that form the present day Rio Almendares. The city of Villa San Cristobal of Havana was founded in 1519 in a place where, according to tradition, there stood a stout ceiba tree that sheltered in its shade the celebrants of the first mass and the first council meeting of the City of Havana. At this location today, there stands a ceiba tree that memorializes the earlier tree and a small temple built in 1827 in commemoration of this historic event.

From the earliest days, the clash of the town’s political and economic interests with the European powers, led to Havana, like other towns, being set afire and destroyed by corsairs and pirates in 1530 and again in 1555. To defend the town against these threats, the inhabitants built castles, city walls, and towers whose names are familiar to us: La Fueza, El Morro, La Cabaña, La Chorrera, Cojímar, La Punta….

In 1553, Havana was tacitly recognized as the island’s capital following the Royal Hearing of Santo Domingo that authorized the governors to reside in Havana. Years later Havana was designated a “City” through the Royal Decree of December 20, 1592 and received the titles of “Rampart of the West Indies” and “Key of the New World”. The City was later designated the “Capital” of the colony by the Royal Decree of October 8, 1607. The port of Havana, the safest in the Caribbean, was filled with military and commercial fleets, forming its early economy together with the export of hides and ship building, leading to the establishment in the 17th century of the most famous shipyard in the New World. 

The early stages of economic development in the area around Havana began with the cultivation of sugar cane and fields of tobacco, whose products carried the name La Habana and were renowned for their indisputable quality.

Havana, geographically distant from the battlefields of the Ten Years’ War, contributed significantly toward the battle for national liberation, as did the entire country. The execution of medical students in 1871 illustrates the level of violence reached by colonial repression. Thus it continued, from the days of the Small War until the preparations for the uprising on February 24, 1895.

Its past is present in old Havana, a colonial jewel whose historic center contains unconquerable fortresses, palaces, churches, and plazas from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries dominated by Cuban baroque which reaches its zenith in the Cathedral of Havana. Due to the degree of conservation and the architectural richness of its buildings and monuments, UNESCO bestowed upon Havana the title of Patrimony of Humanity in 1982.

Bathed by the warm waters of the Caribbean and bronzed by its sun, Havana has witnessed increasing development by playing a central role in the most important economic, scientific, cultural, and social events of the country. In Havana today, one lives out the hectic course of the new times. Havana is a vigorous and young city that is making its way every day. Havana is a magical city.

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