496 historic years since its foundation, the charm of the city of Havana continues to enchant all inclined to stroll through her streets.
With the clock ticking towards the 500th anniversary, if the structures of the picturesque city are feeling their years, her youthful soul nevertheless continues to inspire writers, musicians, painters, sculptors and all artists who vibrate beneath her spell.
Named “La villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana”, the city was founded in the name of the Spanish monarchy on November 16, 1519 and found a definitive home on an ideal site for a settlement and port, in a zone known since 1509, beside the beautiful pocket-shaped bay.
Historians believe that Havana became the Caribbean’s safest port, quickly filling with military and commercial flotillas. This favorable element combined with hide exports and shipbuilding ensured that Havana had by the XVII century, become the most famous port in the New World.
During the first stages of development, the surrounding areas boasted an abundance of sugar cane and tobacco fields, the latter of which was renowned for undeniable quality.
The territory was then also covered with forestry, fruit trees and precious timbers.
In time, it became known simply as “La Habana”, a name derived from Habaguanex, the chief of an aboriginal community that lived in the region.
As well as being famous for being besieged by pirates and corsairs, Havana was the site of conflicts between European powers, and castles, towers and fortress walls still form part of a city visit.
Amongst other majestic works are the castles Castillo de la Real Fuerza, San Carlos de la Cabaña, Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, De la Punta, Cojímar and Torreón de la Chorrera.
Ancient walls, colonial mansions, palaces, squares, cobblestone streets, churches and old forts distinguish what is presently known as old Havana.
This architectural mix is recognized across the continent as being one of the best conserved, containing 88 monuments of significant architectural-historical value, 860 of environmental worth and 1,760 listed constructions.
These merits underlie the 1982 decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to declare it a World Heritage Site.
Over the course of recent years, Havana has been under repair and effective measures for the preservation of her cultural heritage, especially within her architecturally rich and varied old quarter, have been implemented.
The government has constructed a great many museums and supports restoration and conservation through popular participation.
In the New 7 Wonder Cities contest last December in Dubai, Havana was chosen as one of the seven most marvelous cities in the world because of the global diversity of her urban society.
Havana shared the accolade with La Paz, Bolivia; Beirut, Lebanon; Doha, Qatar; Durban, South Africa; Kuala Lumpur, Malasia and Vigan, the Philippines.Share on FB Share on TT