La Habana
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Havana skyline
Havana skyline
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Coat of arms of Havana

Coat of arms
Nickname: Ciudad de las Columnas   (Spanish)
" City of Columns "
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Position of Havana in the Americas
Position of Havana in the Americas
Country  Cuba
Province Ciudad de La Habana
Municipalities 15
Founded 1515a
 - Mayor Juan Contino Aslán
 - City 721.01 km  (0 sq mi)
Elevation 59 m (194 ft)
Population (2005 est)
 - City 2,328,000
 - Density 3053.5/km (0/sq mi)
 - Urban 2,662,300
 - Metro 3,073,000
 est spc
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal code 10xxx-19xxx
Area code(s) (+53) 7
a Founded on the present site was founded in 1519.

Havana (Spanish: La Habana, IPA: /la a'βana/ ) is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city, under the name "Ciudad de La Habana" (City of Havana) province[1], is one of the 14 Cuban provinces. The province has 2.3 million inhabitants, and the metropolitan area over 3 million, making Havana the largest city in both Cuba and the Caribbean region, ninth in Latin America.[2] The province is both the smallest and the most populous in Cuba.

It is located just over 170 km (106 mi) south-southwest of Key West, Florida[3] on the northwest coast of Cuba, facing the Straits of Florida, and is surrounded by Havana Province (distinct from Ciudad de La Habana province) and the coast.

Havana, founded in 1515, is one of the oldest cities founded by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere.[4] The city was protected by walls and fortificaions as it was often attacked by pirates and French corsairs.[5] The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.[6] Old Havana and its fortifications are protected by UNESCO.[7] Havana is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries and headquarters of businesses are based there. Much of Cuba's industrial and service economy is based in Havana.


(UN/LOCODE: CU HAV) La Habana, was founded and formerly named as Villa de San Cristóbal de la Habana by Diego Velásquez de Cuellar. The name Habana is seems to be based on the name of a local taíno chief Habaguanex. Habana may also be related to Middle Dutch, havene: port, but as Havana was not originally founded as a port this origin seems unprobable[8].

Ciudad de La Habana: City of Havana (considered a province, despite its name). In common usage, La Habana is translated when it refers to the city (Havana in Dutch, English, and Portuguese; La Havane in French; L'Avana in Italian; Havanna in German), but not when it refers to either of the provinces.


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1888 German map of Havana

The founding of Havana

The current Havana area and its natural bay were first visited by Europeans during Sebastián de Ocampo's circumnavigation of the island, in 1509.[9] Shortly thereafter, in 1510, the first Spanish colonists arrived from La Hispaniola and thus the Conquest of Cuba began. Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded Havana on August 25, 1515 on the southern coast of the island, near the present town of Surgidero de Batabanó. Between 1514 and 1519, the city had at least two different establishments. All attempts to found a city on Cuba's south coast failed. The city's location was adjacent to a superb harbor at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, and with easy access to the Gulf Stream, the main ocean current that navigators followed when traveling from the Americas to Europe. This location led to Havana’s early development as the principal port of Spain's New World colonies. An early map of Cuba drawn in 1514 places the town at the mouth of the river Onicaxinal, also on the south coast of Cuba. Another establishment was La Chorrera, today in the neighbourhood of Puentes Grandes, next to the Almendares River.

The final establishment, commemorated by El Templete, was the sixth town founded by the Spanish on the island, called San Cristobal de la Habana by Pánfilo de Narváez: the name combines San Cristóbal, patron saint of Havana, and Habana, of obscure origin, possibly derived from Habaguanex, an Indian chief who controlled that area, as mentioned by Diego Velasquez in his report to the king of Spain. A legend relates that Habana was the name of Habaguanex's beautiful daughter,[10] but no known historical source corroborates this version.
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El Morro fortress seen from Havana, built in 1589 to protect the city from pirates and French corsairs
Havana moved to its current location next to what was then called Puerto de Carenas (literally, "Careening Bay"), in 1519. The quality of this natural bay, which now hosts Havana's harbor, warranted this change of location. Bartolomé de las Casas wrote:

...one of the ships, or both, had the need of careening, which is to renew or mend the parts that travel under the water, and to put tar and wax in them, and entered the port we now call Havana, and there they careened so the port was called de Carenas. This bay is very good and can host many ships, which I visited few years after the Discovery... few are in Spain, or elsewhere in the world, that are their equal...[9]

Shortly after the founding of Cuba's first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from here. Cuba, during the first years of the Discovery, provided no immediate wealth to the conquistadores, as it was poor in gold, silver and precious stones, and many of its settlers moved to the more promising lands of Mexico and South America that were being discovered and colonized at the time. The legends of Eldorado and the Seven Cities of Gold attracted many adventurers from Spain, and also from the adjacent colonies, leaving Havana and the rest of Cuba largely unpopulated.

Pirates and La Flota

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Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Havana was originally a trading port, and suffered regular attacks by buccaneers, pirates, and French corsairs. The first attack and burning of the city was by the French corsair Jacques de Sores in 1555. The pirate took Havana easily, plundering the city and burning much of it to the ground. De Sores left without obtaining the enormous wealth he was hoping to find in Havana. Such attacks convinced the Spanish Crown to fund the construction of the first fortresses in the main cities — not only to counteract the pirates and corsairs, but also to exert more control over commerce with the West Indies, and to limit the extensive contrabando (black market) that had arisen due to the trade restrictions imposed by the Casa de Contratación of Seville (the crown-controlled trading house that held a monopoly on New World trade). To counteract pirate attacks on galleon convoys headed for Spain while loaded with New World treasures, the Spanish crown decided to protect its ships by concentrating them in one large fleet, that would traverse the Atlantic Ocean as a group. A single merchant fleet could more easily be protected by the Spanish Armada. Following a royal decree in 1561, all ships headed for Spain were required to assemble this fleet in the Havana Bay. Ships arrived from May through August, waiting for the best weather conditions, and together, the fleet departed Havana for Spain by September.

This naturally boosted commerce and development of the adjacent city of Havana (a humble villa at the time). Goods traded in Havana included gold, silver, alpaca wool from the Andes, emeralds from Colombia, mahoganies from Cuba and Guatemala, leather from the Guajira, spices, sticks of dye from Campeche, corn, manioc, and cocoa. Ships from all over the New World carried products first to Havana, in order to be taken by the fleet to Spain. The thousands of ships gathered in the city's bay also fueled Havana's agriculture and manufacture, since they had to be supplied with food, water, and other products needed to traverse the ocean. In 1563, the Capitán General (the Spanish Governor of the island) moved his residence from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, by reason of that city's newly gained wealth and importance, thus unofficially sanctioning its status as capital of the island. On December 20, 1592, King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City. Later on, the city would be officially designated as "Key to the New World and antemural of the West Indies" by the Spanish crown. In the meantime, efforts to build or improve the defensive infrastructures of the city continued. The San Salvador de la Punta castle guarded the west entrance of the bay, while the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro guarded the eastern entrance. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza defended the city's center, and doubled as the Governor's residence until a more comfortable palace was built. Two other defensive towers, La Chorrera and San Lázaro were also built in this period.

17th-19th centuries

Havana expanded greatly in the 17th century. New buildings were constructed from the most abundant materials of the island, mainly wood, combining various Iberian architectural styles, as well as borrowing profusely from Canarian characteristics. During this period the city also built civic monuments and religious constructions, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Washington Monument, built to commemorate the dead of the First World War. The convent of St Augustin, El Morro Castle, the chapel of the Humilladero, the fountain of Dorotea de la Luna in La Chorrera, the church of the Holy Angel, the hospital of San Lazaro, the monastery of Santa Teresa and the convent of San Felipe Neri were all completed in this era.

In 1649 a fatal epidemic brought from Cartagena in Colombia, affected a third of the population of Havana. On November 30, 1665, Queen Mariana of Austria, widow of King Philip IV of Spain, ratified the heraldic shield of Cuba, which took as its symbolic motifs the first three castles of Havana: the Real Fuerza, the Tres Santos Reyes Magos del Morro and San Salvador de la Punta. The shield also displayed a symbolic golden key to represent the title "Key to the Gulf". On 1674, the works for the City Walls were started, as part of the fortification efforts. They would be completed on 1740.
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British fleet entering Havana, 1762
By the middle of the 18th century Havana had more than seventy thousand inhabitants, and was the third largest city in the Americas, ranking behind Lima and Mexico City but ahead of Boston and New York.[11] The prosperity of Havana brought continued international attention, and the city was unexpectedly seized by the Royal Navy. The episode began on June 6, 1762, when at dawn, an impressive British fleet, containing more than 50 ships and 14,000 men, sailed into Cuban waters, by August the British had Havana under siege[12]. The city was subsequently governed by Sir George Keppel on behalf of Great Britain. The British seized the city as part of the Seven Years' War, they immediately opened up trade with their North American and Caribbean colonies, causing a rapid transformation of Cuban society. Food, horses and other goods flooded into the city, and thousands of slaves from West Africa were transported to the island to work on the under manned sugar plantations.[12] Though Havana, which had become the third largest city in the new world, was to enter an era of sustained development and closening ties with North America, the British occupation was not to last. Pressure from London by sugar merchants fearing a decline in sugar prices forced a series of negotiations with the Spanish over colonial territories. Less than a year after Havana was seized, the Peace of Paris was signed by the three warring powers thus ending the Seven Years' War. The treaty gave Britain Florida in exchange for Cuba on the recommendation of the French, who advised that declining the offer could result in Spain losing Mexico and much of the South American mainland to the British.[12]
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Parque Central, Central Park 1900
After regaining the city, the Spanish transformed Havana into the most heavily fortified city in the Americas. Construction began on what was to become the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the biggest Spanish fortification in the New World. The work extended for eleven years and was enormously costly, but on completion the fort was considered an unassailable bastion and essential to Havana's defence. It was provided with a large number of cannons forged in Barcelona. Other fortifications were constructed, as well: the castle of Atarés defended the Shipyard in the inner bay, while the castle of El Príncipe guarded the city from the west. Several cannon batteries located along the bay's canal (among them the San Nazario and Doce Apóstoles batteries) ensured that no place in the harbor remained undefended.

The Havana cathedral was constructed in 1748 as a Jesuit church, and converted in 1777 into the Parroquial Mayor church, after the Suppression of the Jesuits in Spanish territory in 1767. In 1788, it formally became a Cathedral. Between 1789 and 1790 Cuba was apportioned into an individual diocese by the Roman Catholic Church. On January 15, 1796, the remains of Christopher Columbus were transported to the island from Santo Domingo. They rested here until 1898, when they were transferred to Seville's Cathedral, after Spain's loss of Cuba.
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Lonja del Comercio de La Habana
Havana's shipyard (named El Arsenal) was extremely active, thanks to the lumber resources available in the vicinity of the city. The Santísima Trinidad was the largest warship of her time. Launched in 1769, she was about 62 meters long, had three decks and 120 cannons. She was later upgraded to as many as 144 cannons and four decks. She sank following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This ship cost 40.000 pesos fuertes of the time, which gives an idea of the importance of the Arsenal, by comparing its cost to the 26 million pesos fuertes and 109 ships produced during the Arsenal's existence.[13]

As trade between Caribbean and North American states increased in the early 19th century, Havana became a flourishing and fashionable city. Havana's theaters featured the most distinguished actors of the age, and prosperity amongst the burgeoning middle-class led to expensive new classical mansions being erected. During this period Havana became known as the Paris of the Antilles.

The 19th century opened with the arrival in Havana of Alexander von Humboldt, who was impressed by the vitality of the port. In 1837, the first railroad was constructed, a 51 km stretch between Havana and Bejucal, which was used for transporting sugar from the valley of Guinness to the harbor. With this, Cuba became the fifth country in the world to have a railroad, and the first Spanish-speaking country. Throughout the century, Havana was enriched by the construction of additional cultural facilities, such as the theater Tacon, one of the most luxurious in the world, the Artistic and Literary Liceo (Lyceum) and the theater Coliseo. In 1863, the city walls were knocked down so that the metropolis could be enlarged. At the end of the century, the well-off classes moved to the quarter of El Vedado. Later, they emigrated towards Miramar, and today, evermore to the west, they have settled in Siboney. At the end of the 19th century, Havana witnessed the final moments of Spanish colonialism in America, which ended definitively when the United States warship Maine was sunk in its port, giving that country the pretext to invade the island. The 20th century began with Havana, and therefore Cuba, under occupation by the USA. In 1906 the Bank of Nova Scotia opened the first branch in Havana. By 1931 it had three branches in Havana.
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Museum of the Revolution mix of Spanish, French and German architectural elements.

Republican period and Post-revolution

Under American influence, the city grew and prospered. Numerous residencies, luxury hotels, casinos and nightclubs were constructed since the 1930s to serve Havana's burgeoning tourist industry. Santo Trafficante, Jr. took the roulette wheel at the Sans-Souci, Meyer Lansky directed the Riviera, Lucky Luciano, the National Casino, and the Havana Hilton was Latin America's tallest, largest hotel. At that time Havana became an exotic capital of appeal and numerous activities ranging from marinas, grand prix car racing, musical shows, parks, etc. A city accompanied by gambling and corruption where gangsters and stars were known to mix socially. During this era Havana was usually producing more revenue than Las Vegas. A gallery of black and white portraits from the era still adorns the walls of the bar of the National Hotel, including pictures of Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. In 1958 about 300,000 American tourists visited the city. One of the most well-known to the world was the American author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), who quoted "in terms of beauty, only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana", Hemingway wrote several of his famous novels in Cuba and lived there the last 22 years of his life.[14]

After the revolution of 1959 efforts were made to improve social services, public housing and official buildings; nevertheless, shortages that affected Cuba following the nationalization, without compensation, of all private property and businesses on the island, followed by the U.S. embargo hit Havana especially hard. By 1966-68, the Castro government had expropriated all privately owned business entities in Cuba, down to "certain kinds of small retail forms of commerce" (law No. 1076 [1]). Today much of the city is in a dilapidated state and crumbling, with its citizens not having the monetary ability nor the government authorization to preserve the old buildings from the effects of the tropical climate, government abandonment, and occasional hurricanes. Following a severe economic downturn after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and with it the end of the billions of dollars in subsidies they gave the Cuban government, many believed the Soviet backed regime would soon vanish, as it happened in Eastern Europe. However, the communist government increasingly turned to tourism for financial support. Most of this new tourism comes from Canada and western European nations, amounting to approximately 2 billion dollars annually according to National Geographic. An effort has gone into rebuilding Old Havana for tourist purposes and a number of streets and squares have been rehabilitated.[15] Despite Havana being recently opened to outsiders after years of closure, today tourism in Havana is shadowed by apartheid as communist authorities don't allow Cubans to enter many hotels, restaurants, shows, stores, and beaches restrained only for foreigners. Even gifts, invitations, and contact with foreigners is restrained.


The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbours: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés. The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay. The low hills on which the city lies rise gently from the deep blue waters of the straits. A noteworthy elevation is the 200-foot- (60-metre-) high limestone ridge that slopes up from the east and culminates in the heights of La Cabaña and El Morro, the sites of colonial fortifications overlooking the bay. Another notable rise is the hill to the west that is occupied by the University of Havana and the Prince's Castle.


Havana, like much of Cuba, enjoys a pleasant year-round climate that is tempered by the island's position in the belt of the trade winds and by the warm offshore currents. Average temperatures range from 72 °F (22 °C) in January and February to 82 °F (28 °C) in August. The temperature seldom drops below 50 °F (10 °C).The smallest temperature was 33 ºF(2.0 ºC)in Santiago de las Vegas,Boyeros.And the smallest temperature of cuba are 32 ºF(0,6 ºC)in Bainoa,Havana province. Rainfall is heaviest in October and lightest from February through April, averaging 46 inches (1,167 millimetres) annually. Hurricanes occasionally strike the island, but they ordinarily hit the south coast, and damage in Havana is normally less than elsewhere in the country.

On the night of July 8-9, 2005, the eastern suburbs of the city took a direct hit from Hurricane Dennis, with 100 mph winds the storm whipped fierce 10-foot waves over Havana's seawall, and its winds tore apart pieces of some of the city's crumbling colonial buildings. Chunks of concrete fell from the city's colonial buildings. At least 5,000 homes were damaged in Havana's surrounding province [16]. Three months later, on October 2005, the coastal regions suffered severe flooding following Hurricane Wilma. The table below lists temperature averages throughout the year:

Climate Table based on typical year
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high temperature °C 25.826.127.628.629.830.531.331.631.029.227.726.5
Avg low temperature °C 18.618.619.720.922.423.423.824.123.823.021.319.5
Avg days with rain
Source: Hong Kong Observatory


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Façade of the Edificio Raquél
Havana is unique due to its unrivalled rhythmic arcades built largely by Spanish immigrants. Many interior patios remain similar to designs in Seville, Cadiz and Granada. Neo-classicism affected all new buildings in Havana and can be seen all over the city. Many urban features were introduced into the city at the time including Gas public lighting in 1848 and the railroad in 1837. In the second half of the 18th century sugar and coffee production increased rapidly becoming essential in the development of Havana's most prominent architectural style. Many wealthy Habaneros took their inspiration from the French; this can be seen within the interiors of upper class houses such as the Aldama Palace built in 1844. This is considered the most important neoclassical residential building in Cuba and typifies the design of many houses of this period with portales of neoclassical columns facing open spaces or courtyards.

In 1925 Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, the head of urban planning in Paris moved to Havana for five years to collaborate with architects and landscape designers. In the master planning of the city his aim was to create a harmonic balance between the classical built form and the tropical landscape. He embraced and connected the city’s road networks while accentuating prominent landmarks. His influence has left a huge mark on Havana although many of his ideas were cut short by the great depression in 1929. During the first decades of the 20th century Havana expanded more rapidly than at any time during its history. Great wealth prompted architectural styles to be influenced from abroad. The peak of Neoclassicism came with the construction of the Vedado district (begun in1859). This whole neighbourhood is littered with set back well-proportioned buildings.

Colonial and Baroque
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Apartment building balconies
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Spanish Embassy colonial building
Great riches were brought from the colonialists into and through Havana as it was a key transhipment point between the new world and old world. As a result Havana was the most heavily fortified city in the Americas. Most examples of early architecture can be seen in military fortifications such as La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana (1558 - 1577) designed by Juan Antonelli and the Castillo del Morro (1589 - 1630). This sits at the entrance of Havana Bay and provides an insight into the supremacy and wealth at that time. Old Havana was also protected by a defensive wall begun in 1674 but had already overgrown its boundaries when it was completed in 1767, becoming the new neighbourhood of Centro Habana.

The influence from different styles and cultures can be seen in Havana's colonial architecture, with a diverse range of Moorish, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Roman. The Convento de Santa Clara (1638 - 18th century) is a good example of early Spanish influenced architecture. Its great hall looks resembles an inverted ship and shows the skill of early craftsmen.

The Havana cathedral (1748 -1777) dominating the Plaza de la Caterdral (1749) is the best example of Cuban Baroque. Surrounding it are the Condes de Casa-Bayona (1720 -1746) Marqueses de Arcos (1746) and the Marquesas de Aguas Claras (1751 -1775).

Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Eclectic
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Paseo de Prado
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El Capitolio, art nouveau style
At the turn of the 20th century along with Buenos Aires, Havana was the grandest and most important Latin American city in terms of architecture. This boom period known as vacas gordas (fat cows) demonstrates huge examples of buildings from the international influences of art nouveau, art deco and eclectic.

Its suburbs developed to what we see today as Miramar, Marianao, Vedado and Playa. The lush and wealthy Miramar was set out on the American street grid pattern and became a home to diplomats and foreigners. The railway terminal (1912) and the University of Havana, (1906 -1940) and the Capitolio (1926 - 1929) are a good example of the art nouveau style. The Capitolio dome was at 62 meters the highest point in the city and an example of the influence and wealth deriving from the USA at the time. The Lopez Serrano building built in 1932 by Ricardo Mira was the first tall building in Cuba and inspired by the Rockefeller Center in New York. Its design influence can be seen in many buildings in Miami and Los Angeles. The Edificio Bacardi (1930) is one of Havana's grandest buildings and it's best example of Art Deco. Located on a small knoll overlooking the entrance to Havana Bay, is the art-deco style Hotel Nacional de Cuba; originally built in 1929-30 through a joint agreement with the Cuban government and U.S.-based bank.


Havana, by far the leading cultural centre of the island, offers a wide variety of features that range from museums, palaces, public squares, avenues, churches, fortresses (including the largest fortified complex in the Americas dating from the 16th through 18th centuries), ballet and from art and musical festivals to exhibitions of technology. The restoration of Old Havana offered a number of new attractions, including a museum to house relics of the Cuban revolution. The government placed special emphasis on cultural activities, many of which are free or involve only a minimal charge.
Old Havana
Main article: Old Havana
UNESCO Heritage site Old Havana, (La Habana Vieja in Spanish), contains the core of the original city of Havana, it is the richest colonial set of Latin America. Havana Vieja was founded by the Spanish in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana. It became a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. In the 17th century it was one of the main shipbuilding centers. The city was built in baroque and neoclassic style. Many buildings have fallen in ruin during the communist period in the later half of the 20th century, but a number are being restored. The narrow streets of old Havana contain many buildings, accounting for perhaps as many as one-third of the approximately 3,000 buildings found in Old Havana.[17]

Old Havana is the ancient city formed from the port, the official center and the Plaza de Armas. Alejo Carpentier called Old Havana the place "de las columnas" (of the columns). The Cuban government is taking many steps to preserve and to restore Old Havana, through the Office of the city historian, directed by Eusebio Leal.[18] Old Havana and its fortifications were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982.[19]

Further information: Chinese Cuban
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Havana's Chinatown district. The paifang (arch) is located on Dragones street.
Havana has an active Chinese community and a number of Chinese restaurants in its Chinatown (Barrio Chino) district located in Centro Habana. The heart of Havana's chinatown is on el Cuchillo de Zanja (or The Zanja Canal). The strip is a pedestrian-only street adorned with many red lanterns, dancing red paper dragons and other Chinese cultural designs, there is a great number of restaurants that serve a full spectrum of Chinese dishes. The Chinatown district has two paifang, a large one located on Calle Dragones, the materials were donated in the late 90s by the People's Republic of China [20], it has a well defined written welcoming sign in Chinese and Spanish. The smaller arch is located on Zanja strip. Almost a century ago, Havana was home to Latin America's biggest and most vibrant Chinatown, the product of heavy Chinese immigration. Havana's Chinatown incorporated into the city by the early part of the 20th century, the neighborhood was booming with Chinese restaurants, laundries, banks, pharmacies, theaters and several Chinese-language newspapers, the neighborhood comprised of 44 square blocks during its prime.[21]

Only one of what were once four Chinese-language newspapers remains in Havana, Kwong Wah Po, written by Abel Fung, member of the Promotional Group of Chinatown [22]. The newspaper is not subject to state censorship. In addition, Chinatown is the only area granted autonomy from many laws that govern the rest of Cuba. Restaurants, for example, are not state run nor are they subject to the laws of private restaurants in that they are allowed to have more than 12 seats as well as serve seafood.

The Cuban's Chinese boom ended when Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution seized private businesses, sending tens of thousands of business-minded Chinese fleeing, mainly to the United States and their homeland China. Unlike that of Argentina and other Latin American countries, the overseas Chinese population of Cuba was once very large. Age, emigration and intermarriage have taken a toll on Havana's once flourishing Chinese community. While descendants are making efforts to preserve and revive the culture, the island's last pure Chinese are slowly disappearing into Havana's Chinese cemetery, taking with them part of Cuba's history. Chinese immigration to Cuba started in 1847 when Spanish settlers brought in Cantonese contract workers to work in the sugar fields. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan during the following decades to replace the labor of African slaves. After completing 8-year contracts, the Chinese immigrants generally settled permanently in Havana, where their descendants have since intermarried with local Cubans.

To tie in with the Revolution's economic reliance on tourism, attempts have recently been launched to attract revitalization investment for Chinatown from state-run enterprises of the People's Republic of China and overseas Chinese private investors, particularly Chinese Canadians. The Promotional Group of Havana's Chinatown was created in 1995 by several Chinese-born, descendents and habitants of the neighborhood, its purpose is to promote and execute the cultural rescue actions, strengthening and enrichment of the values, customs, traditions and contributions of the Chinese presence to the Cuban patrimony. The group promotes a vierity of activities such as Chinese-language classes, demonstrations of martial arts, Chinese folk dance, traditional Cantonese teatre and celebrates different festivities throughout the year, such as the Chinese New Year festival, and since 1997 the overseas Chinese festival (the most important festival).

Visual arts
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Carmen Bacallao de Marpica, 1883. Museo de las Bellas Artes
A house located on 17th Street and E, is the very well maintained neo-classical mansion of the Countess of Revilla de Camargo, today it is the Museum of Decorative Arts (Museo de Artes Decorativas), known as the small French Palace of Havana built between 1924 and 1927, it was designed in Paris by architects P. Virad and M. Destuque, inspired in French Renaissance[23]. A lavish display of 18th and 19th century European treasures that recall a time when Havana was known as the Paris of the Antilles, and many luxury goods, including porcelain from Worcester, Meissen and Sevres, were imported [24]. In the French room, a marble bust of Marie Antoinette smiles demurely, her graceful neck intact. There is another room full of Chinese screens, another one featuring English furniture and landspcape painting. For more than 40 decades the museum has been exhibiting more than 33,000 works dating from the reigns of Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Napoleon III; as well as XVI to XX Century Oriental pieces, among many other treasures[25]. The Museum has ten permanent exhibit halls with works that range from the XVI to the XX centuries. Among them are prominent porcelain articles from the factories in Sevres and Chantilly, France; Meissen, Germany; and Wedgwood, England, as well as Chinese from the Kien Lung period and Japanese from the Imari. The furniture comes from Leonard Boudin, Simoneau, Jean Henri Riesener and several others.
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Asturian Center. Museo de las Bellas Artes- universal arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts is a Fine Arts museum that exhibits Cuban art collections from the colonial times up to contemporary generation. There are two impressive buildings, one dedicated to Cuban Art and the Universal Art, in the former Asturian Center[26], the former Fine Arts Museum built in 1954 is dedicated exclusively to housing Cuba Art collections. Several museums in Old Havana contain furniture, silverware, pottery, glass and other items from the colonial period. A great one of these is the Palace of the General Captains, where Spanish governors once lived. The Casa de Africa presents another aspect of Cuba's history, an impressive collection of Afro-Cuban religious artifacts. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes containing works by Rubens, Goya and Velazquez now is closed for renovations, it is open to public at a temporary location on Calle Trocadero until renovations are complete. Other museums includes Casa de los Árabes and the Casa de Asia with Middle and Far Eastern collections. Many of these small boutiques museums are in elegant old Spanish architecture houses with airy courtyards. The Museo de Finanzas is more than an empty vault where dictator Fulgencio Batista once stashed his loot. A few old bank-notes are displayed on the walls. Havana's Museo del Automobil has an impressive collection of vehicles dating back to a 1905 Cadillac. In the Automobile museum there is also a Rolls Royce which belonged to Batista, near the 1960 Chevrolet that Che Guevara drove.

There is no other museum like the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución), designed in Havana by Cuban architect Maruri, and the Belgian Jean Beleu, who came up with an eclectic design, which harmoniously combines Spanish, French and German architectural elements. The museum was the Presidential Palace, today, its displays and documents outline Cuba's history from the beginning of the neo-colonial period. As most museums of Havana are situated in Old Havana few of them could also be found in Vedado. In total, Havana has around 50 museums, including the Museum of Fine Art, the Revolution and Decorative Arts; the National Museum of Music; the Museum of Dance and Rum; the Cigar Museum; the Napoleonic, Colonial and Oricha Museums; the Museum of Antropology; the Ernest Hemingway Museum; the Jose Marti Monument; Museums of Natural Sciences, the City, Archeology Museum, and Gold-and Silverwork. Also the Aircraft, Parfume, Pharmaceutical, Sports, Numismatic and Weapons Museums.

Performing arts
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Great Theater façade details
After the sun sets, Havana's performing arts come to life, facing the Central Park is the German faux-baroque Great Theater of Havana, a prominent theatre built in 1837 home of the National Ballet of Cuba and the International Ballet Festival of Havana, one of the oldest in the New World and remarkably was once the most technologically advanced in the world, thanks to the Italian scientist, Antonio Meucci.[27] It is said the experiments of the eccentric inventor who arrived in Havana in 1835 produced electrical lightning effects and an internal telephone system long before Edison or Bell. Meucci's ingenious spirit lives on in the teatre. Located in the Paseo de Prado in a building known as the Palacio del Centro Gallego. The façade of the building is adorned with a stone and marble statue. There are also sculptural pieces by Giuseppe Moretti,[28] representing allegories depicting benevolence, education, music and theatre. The principal theatre is the García Lorca Auditorium, with seats for 1,500 and balconies. Glories of its rich history; the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso sang, the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova danced, and the French Sarah Bernhardt acted.
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Ballet Nacional de Cuba performing in the Great Theater of Havana
Another grand theatre is the National Theater of Cuba, housed in a huge modern building, decorated with works by Cuban artists, there are two main theatre stages, the Sala Avellaneda and the Sala Covarrubias, as well as a smaller theatre workshop space on the ninth floor. The Karl Marx Theater is the venue has an enormous auditorium with seating capacity of 5500 people, and is generally used for big shows by stars from Cuba and abroad. The theatre is also a major concert venue for both local and international artists; singer-songwriters such as Carlos Varela, Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, are just a few of the famous artists who have graced this particular stage. More recently, this was the scene of a concert by British pop group The Manic Street Preachers. Another theater is the Hubert de Blanck Theater, situated in the Vedado district, has a seating capacity for 267 people, and offers regular performances of contemporary and classical plays. There are also occasional presentations of well known foreign productions that have toured to Cuba. The Teatro Amadeo Roldán which is located within a monumental modern building, once home to The Havana Auditorium, the venue now consists of the Amadeo Roldán and García Caturla halls, offering symphonic orchestras, piano recitals, and a mixture of classical and contemporary music. This is also home to the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, and prestigious international events are held here such as the "Encuentro Internacional de Guitarra" (International Guitar Gathering).

Nightlife and music
The Revolution may have curbed the debauched excesses of the famous 50s, but Havana's brand of rum-fuelled hedonism still lures mega stars and tourists to its vibrant clubs and bars. Vedado has the lion's share of clubs and musical venues, from the swanky to the seedy, while Miramar and Playa is the locale for titillating cabaret and raunchy discos. Some of the nightclubs, restaurants and cabarets found in Havana are world renowned, such as the Tropicana cabaret and nightclub, known as Paradise Under the Stars since it opened in 1939, it has become a shrine to tropical sexuality; 200 dancing queens and heavily choreographed routine is performed to tunes that run the gamut of Cuban musical genres. The Parisien it's another world renowned cabaret, with a show that lasts longer than Tropicana and is of an equivalent standard. Salón Rojo, is a Tropicana-style show with a disco opened until 4 a.m. The Club Turquino situated on the 25th floor of the Habana Libre Hotel, has as very sleek New York style bar, its roof opens giving amazing views from the 25th floor. Other clubs includes Habana Cafe, Macumba Habana, La Zorra y el Cuervo (the Fox and the Crow, jazz music), El Gato Tuerto (The One-Eyed Cat, for soul music) and Dos Gardenias (Two Gardenias, for Boleros).

Many of the city's most famed restaurants are in Old Havana. The most popular is La Bodeguita del Medio, once a hangout of Ernest Hemingway and known as best making mojitos[29]. El Floridita, also renowned for its Hemingway associations, claims to be the “birthplace of the daiquiri. Inarguably the most famous restaurant is "La Guardia" in Centro Havana -- located on a darkened street away from tourists attractions, this private restaurants hosts visiting royalty, dignitaries, and movie stars. Don Giovanni, an Italian and Criollo restaurant it's not named for Mozart's Don Giovanni, but for the military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, designer of Havana's 16th century fortresses. The Al Medina restaurant is part of an Arabic cultural center with the city's only mosque and an oasis-like courtyard that hosts arts-and-crafts shows and sales. The eclectic menu offers both Moroccan and criollo fare, ranging from couscous and lamb dishes to criollo standards such as roast chicken or pork and black beans with rice. The Café Paris in old Havana is entertained by one of the city's excellent trios at this 24-hour standby. Café Cantante, on the upper edge of Vedado, near the Plaza de la Revolución, this café often has live music and dance or comedy shows. Other well-known restaurant and bars includes El Aljibe, El Patio and La Terraza.

The Playas del Este (Eastern Beaches) are just 20-30 minutes from Havana on the coast road to Varadero. Full of sun worshippers and local flavor, these sands have something of a daytime-disco-by-the-sea atmosphere. The beaches are spread out along the Via Blanca highway east of the city, the first beach is Bacuranao, 18 km (11 mi) east of Havana. Beneath the waters off this small, white-sand cove are coral reefs and an 18th century Spanish galleon, making this a popular scuba diving spot. Two kilometers (1 mile) east of Bacuranao is the Tarará beach, a small stretch of white sand that is home to the 50-berth Marina Tarará/Club Nautico, site of the annual July Old Man and the Sea Fishing Tournament. To the farther east, there is Playa Guanabo, most visited by locals. In the deeper water, turtles, Blue Marlins (Makaira nigrencans), Tuna, and Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) can be seen. In general, the city's long shoreline is good for scuba diving, there are more than 70 diving sites in the area, 62 miles (100 km) long and nearly two miles (3 km) wide, including some sunken ships which have been declared a part of Cuba's historic heritage. Four international scuba diving centers serve the capital.


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Memorial José Martí, Plaza de la Revolución. This monument dates from the time of Fulgencio Batista
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The Christ of Havana
  • Castillo del Morro, a picturesque fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay. The construction of the castle Los Tres Reyes del Morro was due to the step along in Havana of the English pirate Sir Francis Drake.
  • La Cabaña a fortress located on the east side of the Havana bay. La Cabaña is the most impressive fortress from colonial times, particularly its walls constructed (at the same time as El Morro) at the end of the 18th century.
  • Castillo San Salvador de la Punta - is a small fortress built in the 16th century, at the western entry point to the Havana harbour, played a crucial role in the defence of Havana during the first centuries of colonisation. The fortress still houses some twenty old guns and other military antiques.
  • Malecón is the avenue that runs along the seawall built along the northern shore of Havana, from Habana Vieja to the Almendares River, forming the southern boundary of Old Havana, Centro Habana and Vedado.
  • National Capitol, Built in 1929 as the Senate and House of Representatives (and said to be a replica of Washington DC's Capitol), this colossal building is recognizable by its dome which dominates the city's skyline. Inside stands the largest indoor bronze statue in the world representing Pallas Athena. Nowadays, the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (the National Museum of Natural History) has its venue within the building and contains the largest natural history collection in the country
  • The Great Theater of Havana is famous particularly for the acclaimed National Ballet of Cuba. It sometimes hosts performances by the National Opera. The theater is also known as concert hall, Garcia Lorca, the biggest in Cuba.
  • The Museum of the Revolution, located in the former Presidential Palace, with the yacht Granma on display behind the museum.
  • Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón - cemetery and open air museum[30] It is one of the most famous cemeteries in Latin America, known for its beauty and magnificence. The cemetery was built in 1876 and has nearly one million tombs. Some of the gravestones are decorated with the works of sculptors of the calibre of Ramos Blancos, among others.
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Salón de Pasos Perdidos, Inside El Capitolio
  • Casa de las Américas - is a Cuban institution for Latin American and Caribbean culture. The galleries in the main building house one of the finest collections of Latin American art. There are three separate exhibition spaces and a specialised library.
  • Hotel Nacional de Cuba, or the National Hotel.
  • Botanical Garden - a garden with beautiful scenery hosts Caribbean species, particularly those of Cuba. There is a Japanese Garden, with fountains and waterfalls.
  • National Aquarium - Cuba’s National Aquarium is a unique exhibit, the Island and the Caribbean’s marine flora and fauna are preserved by the work of the staff that has been encouraged with the Colectivo Vanguardia Nacional acknowledgment during five years.
  • Centro Wifredo Lam - This little museum and gallery is dedicated to the memory of Cuba's most treasured modern artist, Wifredo Lam. The museum houses a sizeable collection of Lam's lithographs and acrylic works, as well as works of art and sculpture from the artist's personal collection.
  • Convento de Santa Clara de Asis - One of the oldest and best of the Spanish colonial monasteries on the island, this building is now home to the Centro Nacional de Restauración, Conservación y Museología or CENCREM (National Centre for Restoration, Conservation and Museum Studies). Founded in 1644 it has, despite its peaceful history, given rise to many tales and legends of unrequited love and hidden treasure. No evidence has ever been uncovered to back up these stories.
  • The Christ of Havana - Havana's statue of Christ blesses the city from the other side of the bay, much like the famous Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro. Carved from marble by Jilma Madera, it was erected in 1958 on a platform which makes a good spot from which to watch old Havana and the harbour.
  • José Martí Memorial - is a museum dedicated to the life of this famous revolutionary writer and poet. The museum displays many of José Martí's personal belongings.



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Havana harbour
Havana's economy first developed on the basis of its location, which made it one of the early great trade centres in the New World. Sugar and a flourishing slave trade first brought riches to the city, and later, after independence, it became a renowned resort. Despite efforts by the Castro government to spread Cuba's industrial activity to all parts of the island, Havana remains the centre of much of the nation's industry. The traditional sugar industry, upon which the island's economy has been based for three centuries, is centred elsewhere on the island and controls some three-fourths of the export economy. But light manufacturing facilities, meat-packing plants, and chemical and pharmaceutical operations are concentrated in Havana. Other food-processing industries are also important, along with shipbuilding, vehicle manufacturing, production of alcoholic beverages (particularly rum), textiles, and tobacco products, particularly the world-famous Habanos cigars.[31] Although the harbours of Cienfuegos and Matanzas, in particular, have been developed under the revolutionary government, Havana remains Cuba's primary port facility; 50% of Cuban imports and exports pass through Havana. The port also supports a considerable fishing industry.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the United States embargo against Cuba, Havana and the rest of Cuba suddenly plunged into its worst economic crisis since the 1959 Revolution, the crisis was known officially as the Special Period in Time of Peace. The effects of the Special Period and consequent food shortages have had greatest repercussions in the city of Havana. With approximately 2.5 million people, Havana has about one fifth of Cuba's total population and is the largest city in the Caribbean. In addition to the decline in food production needed to serve the capital, there is also a shortage of petroleum necessary to transport, refrigerate, and store food available from the rural agricultural sector. Havana has been designated as a priority in the National Food Program; urban gardening has figured critically among the many measures taken to enhance food security. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro re-emphasized tourism as a major industry, which today is Havana and Cuba's primary economic source [32].
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Vedado skyline from El Morro, Old Havana

Commerce and finance

Under the government of Fidel Castro, Cuba's traditional free-enterprise system was replaced by a heavily socialized economic system. The majority of business in Cuba is in the hands of the state. In Havana the large Cuban-owned department stores and U.S.-owned businesses were nationalized and today operate under state control. In Old Havana and throughout Vedado there are a several small private businesses, such as shoe-repair shops or dressmaking facilities, but their number is steadily declining. Banking has come totally under state control, and the National Bank of Cuba, headquartered in Havana, is the control centre of the Cuban economy. Its branches in some cases occupy buildings that were in pre-revolutionary times the offices of Cuban or foreign banks.

Vedado is today Havana's financial district, the main banks, airline companies offices, shops, most businesses headquarters, numerous high-rise apartments and hotels, are located in the area[33]. In the late 1990s Vedado, located along the Caribbean waterfront, started to represent the principal commercial area. It was developed extensively during the decades between 1930 and 1960, when Havana developed as a major destination for U.S. tourists; high-rise hotels, casinos, restaurants, and upscale commercial establishments, many reflecting the art deco style[34]. The University of Havana is located in Vedado.

City layout

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Building restorations in Vedado
Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Old Havana, with its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, is the traditional centre of part of Havana's commerce, industry, and entertainment, as well as being a residential area.

To the north and west a newer section, centred on the uptown area known as Vedado, has become the rival of Old Havana for commercial activity and nightlife. Central Havana, sometimes described as part of Vedado, is mainly a shopping district that lies between Vedado and Old Havana. The Capitolio Nacional marks the beginning of central Havana, a working class neighborhood, where a lot of buildings are almost in a total state of collapse [35]. Chinatown and The Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás, one of Cuba's oldest cigar factories is located in the area[36].

A third Havana is that of the more affluent residential and industrial districts that spread out mostly to the west. Among these is Marianao, one of the newer parts of the city, dating mainly from the 1920s. Some of the suburban exclusivity was lost after the revolution, many of the suburban homes having been expropriated by the Castro government to serve as schools, hospitals, and government offices. Several private country clubs were converted to public recreational centres. Miramar located west of Vedado along the coast, remains Havana's exclusive area; mansions, foreign embassies, diplomatic residences, upscale shops, and facilities for wealthy foreigners are common in the area[37]. The International School of Havana is located in the Miramar neighborhood. Another important district in the capital is Centro Habana.

In the 1980s many parts of Old Havana, including the Plaza de Armas, became part of a projected 35-year multimillion-dollar restoration project. The government sought to instill in Cubans an appreciation of their past and also to make Havana more enticing to tourists in accordance with the government's effort to boost tourism and thus increase foreign exchange.


Further information: Transportation in Cuba
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Ferry from Regla to Casablanca crossing the harbour

The Central Highway (Carretera Central) is the most important communication axis,[38] it joins Havana center to the main urban centers and it is connected with other main ways such as the National Freeway, the Monumental Highway, Via Blanca, and La Farola. The highway is a narrow way with two lanes and it was built in the 30s. The National Highway, more modern than the central highway, connects Havana City all along to Ciego de Avila, located in the center of the country and near the eastern part of the country. It is most rapid, modern and wide way, provided with several lanes. However, it doesn't get to the eastern provinces of the country. It extends all through the south center of the island. It is a wide way, with 6 and 8 lanes built in the 70s. The Colectivos are taxis that operate long and fixed routes, only embarking when complete with passengers. These taxis are much more comfortable than the public buses, drivers wait in the surroundings of the bus stations. The passenger ferries which run back and forth crossing the Havana harbour to Regla and Casablanca, have replaced the paddle steamers that were introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, they are a quaint form of transport, a bit like floating buses, transporting local residents from one sector to the other. The ferry leaves from Muelle de la Luz every 10 or 15 minutes, located on Calle Luz and Avenida del Puerto, in the Southeast of Old Havana.

Havana is served by José Martí International Airport. It lies about 11 km south of the city center, and is the main hub of Cubana de Aviación. José Martí International Airport is Cuba's main international and domestic getaway, it is also hub of Aerogaviota and Aero Caribbean. The airport serves several million passengers each year, 80% of Cuba's international passengers along with Varadero's Airport, it handles flights from over 25 international airlines serving more than 60 worldwide destinations, mainly in Europe, North, Central and South America and over 3 national airlines serving 16 domestic destinations. Havana is also served by Playa Baracoa Airport which is small airport to the west of city used for some domestic flights, primarily Aerogaviota.
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UNESCO Heritage site: Estación Central de Tren (Central Rail Station)

Havana has a network of suburban, interurban and long-distance rail lines, the only one in the Caribbean region. Rail service connects Havana from the Central Rail Station, La Coubre' and Casablanca stations to various Cuban provinces, Cuban railway systems bought French first class airconditioned trains in the mid 2000s.

Fast trains line 1 and 2 between Havana (Central Station) and Santiago de Cuba use comfortable stainless-steel air-conditioned coaches bought from French Railways and now known as "el tren francés" (the French train). It runs daily at peak periods of the year (Summer season, Christmas & Easter), and on every second day at other times of the year. These coaches were originally used on the premier Trans Europ Express service between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam before being replaced with high speed Thalys trains. They were shipped to the Cuban Railways System in 2001. It offers two classes of seating, basic leatherette "especial" and quite luxurious "primera especial".

Line 8 from Havana (Central Station) - Sancti Spiritus via Matanzas and Santa Clara. First class seats only, runs every second day, on even dates Havana to Sancti Spiritus, on odd dates Sancti Spiritus to Havana. An electric railcar runs on a railway originally built by the Hershey Chocolate Cooporation from Havana (Casablanca station) to Hershey and Matanzas.

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New articulated buses covering the M-1 line
The Havana Bus Company (Empresa de Omnibus de La Habana) has one of the most used and largest urban bus fleets in the country, its fleet is widely diverse in new and old bus models, primerally well used Busscar Urbanuss manufactured by Mercedes-Benz with an additional new 255. In 2004 the Havana Bus Company purchased 255 new Busscar brand buses, using Mercedes-Benz frames and engines[39]. The Cuban company, Metrobus, purchased seven articulated buses which is currently serving the M-5 camello line, covering a route from San Agustín in La Lisa municipality to Vedado. The busiest routes are operated by camellos, these are trailers transformed into buses, known as camels, so called for their two humps, they are usually very crowded. After the upgrading of Seville's public bus fleet to CNG-powered and new vehicles, many of the decommissioned ones were donated to the city of Havana. These bright orange buses still display the name of Transportes Urbanos de Sevilla, S.A.M., their former owner, and Seville's coat of arms as a sign of gratitude. [40] There are several inter-province bus services such as Astro, the regular National public transportation, Astro connects the capital city with all over the island, in 2005 Astro completely replaced its fleet with brand new Yutong buses.

Public transportation camello routes:
  • M-1 Alamar - Vedado via Fraternidad
  • M-2 Fraternidad - Santiago de las Vegas
  • M-3 Alamar - Ciudad Deportiva
  • M-4 Fraternidad - San Agustin via Marianao
  • M-5 Vedado - San Agustin (7 new articulated buses are currently covering the M-5 line)
  • M-6 Calvario - Vedado
  • M-7 Parque de la Fraternidad - Alberro via Cotorro


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Government buildings in Plaza


Havana is administered by a city council, with a mayor as chief administrative officer. The city is dependent upon the national government, however, for much of its budgetary and overall political direction. The national government is headquartered in Havana and plays an extremely visible role in the city's life. Moreover, the all-embracing authority of many national institutions, including the Communist Party of Cuba (Partido Comunista de Cuba; PCC), the Cuban Army, the militia, and neighbourhood groups called the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), has led to a declining role for the city government, which, nevertheless, still provides such essential services as garbage collection and fire protection. The CDRs, which exist in virtually every street and apartment block, have two main functions: first, to actually defend the revolution against both external and internal opposition and, second, to handle routine tasks in maintaining neighbourhoods.

Havana city borders are contiguous with the Habana Province. Thus Havana functions as both a city and a province. There are two joint councils upon which city and provincial authorities meet—one embraces municipal and provincial leaders on a national basis, the other, a Havana city and provincial council. Havana is divided into 15 constituent municipalities. Until 1976 there were six subdivisions, but in that year the city's borders were expanded to include the entire metropolitan area.


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The 15 administrative divisions of Havana
The city is divided into 15 municipios - municipalities or boroughs. (Numbers refer to map above).
Municipality Population
Location Remarks
Arroyo Naranjo(10)
Centro Habana(6)
Diez de Octubre(9)
La Habana del Este(15)
La Habana Vieja(7)
La Lisa(2)
Plaza de la Revolución(5)
San Miguel del Padrón(11)
Source: Population from 2004 Census.[41] Area from 1976 municipal re-distribution.[42]


Havana, like the rest of Cuba, is populated mostly by people of Spanish ancestry. In the era before Fidel Castro came to power, the city was economically and ethnically divided. On the one hand, there was the minority of the wealthy, educated elite, together with a strong developing and expanding middle class, and on the other was the working-class majority. This division was largely based on ethnic background: whites tended to be more well-to-do, while blacks and mulattoes generally were poor. The economic structure did not provide much opportunity for blacks and mulattoes except in the more menial occupations. There was also little opportunity for them to obtain an education. Under the Castro government that came to power in 1959, this system changed. Educational and employment opportunities were made available to Cubans of all ethnic backgrounds. In housing, the government follows an official policy of no discrimination based on ethnic background, and independent observers tend to believe this policy has been more or less faithfully carried out.
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Beth Shalom Synagogue, largest of Havana's three synagogues

During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century, large waves of Canarian, Catalan, and Galician emigrated to La Habana. The Cuban government controls the movement of people into Havana on the grounds that the Havana metropolitan area (home to nearly 20% of the country's population) is overstretched in terms of land use, water, electricity, transportation, and other elements of the urban infrastructure. There is a population of internal migrants to Havana nicknamed "Palestinos" (Palestinians); these mostly hail from the eastern region of Oriente.[43] Havana has a significant minority of Chinese, before the revolution the Chinese population counted to over 200,000[44], today Chinese born or ancestors could count up to 100,000[45]. Havana also shelters a population of non-Cubans of unknown size. There is a population of several thousand North African teen and pre-teen refugees.[46]

Roman Catholics form the largest religious group in Havana. The Jewish community in Havana has reduced after the Revolution from once having embraced more than 150,000 Jews[47], many of whom had fled Nazi persecution and subsequently left Cuba to Miami or returned to Israel after Castro took to power in 1959. The city once had five synagogues, but only three remain (one Orthodox, one Conservative and one Sephardic). In February 2007 the New York Times estimated that there were about 1,100 known Jews living in Havana.[48]



Further information: Education in Cuba
The national government assumes all responsibility for education, and there are adequate primary, secondary, and vocational training schools throughout Havana. The vocational Cuban National Ballet School with 4,350 students is the biggest ballet school in the world and the most prestigious ballet school in Cuba[49] , directed by Ramona de Sáa. In 2002 with the expansion of the school, out of 52,000 students interested to join the school, 4,050 were selected.[50]. The government claims that all children receive an education, and the claim appears to be valid. The schools are of varying quality, however, and the content of education is clearly aimed at supporting the socialist political orientation of the Castro government. Education is free and compulsory at all levels except higher learning, which is free nonetheless. The University of Havana, located in the Vedado section of Havana, was established in 1728 and was once regarded as a leading institution of higher learning in the Western Hemisphere. Soon after Castro came to power in 1959, the university lost its traditional autonomy and was placed under the control of the government. The city's only other university, the respected Catholic University in Marianao, was closed after the revolution.


Further information: Healthcare in Cuba
Under the Cuban government all citizens are covered by the national health care plan. Administration of the health care system for the nation is centred largely in Havana. Hospitals in Havana are run by the national government, and citizens are assigned hospitals and clinics to which they may go for attention. During the 1980s Cuba began to attract worldwide attention for its treatment of heart diseases and eye problems, some of this treatment administered in Havana. There has long been a high standard of health care in the city.


Utility services are under the control of several nationalized state enterprises that have developed since the Castro Cuban revolution. Water, electricity, and sewage service are administered in this fashion. Electricity is supplied by generators that are fueled with oil. Much of the original power plant installation, which operated before the Castro government assumed control, has become somewhat outdated. Electrical blackouts occurred, prompting the national government in 1986 to allocate the equivalent of $25,000,000 to modernize the electrical system. It is said that any part of Havana is within five minutes of a fire-fighting unit; the equipment is largely new.

Sister cities

Havana has twinning agreements with the following sister cities:


Many Cubans are avid sports fans who particularly favour baseball and football (soccer). Havana's two baseball teams in the Cuban National Series are Industriales and Metropolitanos. The city has several large sports stadiums, the largest one is the Estadio Latinoamericano. Admission to sporting events is generally free, and impromptu games are played in neighbourhoods throughout the city. Social clubs at the beaches provide facilities for water sports and include restaurants and dance halls.

Other images

Sunrise in Havana

Vedado overview

El Malecón
(The Seawall)

Old Havana streets
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View of Havana from the Hotel Sevilla, 2002
View of Havana from the Hotel Sevilla, 2002



1. ^ (Spanish) "Ciudad (con mayúscula) de La Habana, así se llama la provincia donde se encuentra ubicada la capital de Cuba.". Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
2. ^ (English) Latin America Population - Havana city population.
3. ^ (English) Time & Date - Cities located close to Havana
4. ^ (English) Capital city - capital of Spanish Cuba in 1552
5. ^ (English) Old Havana
6. ^ (English) Spanish-American War -Effects of the Press on Spanish-American Relations in 1898
7. ^ (English) Habana Vieja - UNESCO World Heritage List
8. ^ [2]
9. ^ (Spanish) Historia de la Construcción Naval en Cuba
10. ^ (Spanish) Historia de la India Habana
11. ^ Thomas, Hugh : Cuba, A pursuit of freedom 2nd Edition p.1
12. ^ Thomas, Hugh : Cuba : The Pursuit of Freedom 2nd edition. Chapter One
13. ^ [3]
14. ^ Ernest Hemingway life - Homing To The Stream: Ernest Hemingway in Cuba.
15. ^ Old Havana restoration - Success on the restoration program of Havana
16. ^ [4] Havana, Cuba's history with tropical systems
17. ^ [5]3,000 buildings found in Old Havana
18. ^ [6]Cuban Restoration Project Pins New Hopes on Old Havana
19. ^ Habana Vieja - UNESCO World Heritage List
20. ^ El Barrio Chino de la Habana - Havana's Chinatown (Spanish)
21. ^ Havana's Chinatown - The once largest Chinatown in Latin America
22. ^ Chinatown is fading with age in Cuba - Kwong Wah Po, only ramaining Chinese newspaper in Cuba
23. ^ Museo de Artes Decorativos- José Gómez Mena, one of Cuba's wealthiest aristocrats, built this house in 1927 to hold his staggering collection of antique furniture, rugs, paintings and vases.
24. ^ (Spanish) Trabajadores Newspaper article- Las artes decorativas también tienen su Museo en La Habana.
25. ^ (Spanish) Paseos por La Habana-El museo guarda en su interior mobiliario antiguo, porcelana y ceramica, cristalerias, espejos, bronces y objetos ornamentales.
26. ^ (Spanish) Centro Asturiano de La Habana- Museo de Arte Universal. Centro Asturiano de La Habana (1927)
27. ^ ANTONIO MEUCCI- In Havana he constructed a system for waters depuration and reprojected the Gran Teatro, which had been almost entirely destroyed by a hurricane.
28. ^ (Spanish) Radio Havana-Cuba- Existen también piezas escultóricas en las cuatro cúpulas del techo realizadas por Giuseppe Moretti.
29. ^ (English) La Bodeguita del Medio-Havana's best-known bar-restaurant is a great place to hoist one for Hemingway.
30. ^ Havana's magnificent necropolis tells a story of wealth and freedom
31. ^ The economy of Havana
32. ^ Tourism in Cuba during the Special Period
33. ^ Vedado (district, Havana, Cuba) - This part of the city, built largely in the 20th century, contains attractive homes, tall apartments, and offices along wide, tree-lined boulevards and avenues.
34. ^ Vedado- De una casa colonial a una mansión del Vedado
35. ^ Centro Habana- Centro Habana guia turistica, Cuba
36. ^ Centro Habana
37. ^ Havana Miramar School
38. ^ (English) Cuba's Central Highway- Carretera Central, which ran practically the entire length of the island, from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba, a distance of over 700 miles.
39. ^ The purchased of 255 new urban buses by the Havana Bus Company (Empresa de Omnibus de La Habana): "INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION FAIR IN HAVANA Business in excess of $100 million, Granma national newspaper note
40. ^ The last lot was delivered in 2006: "Entrega de 16 autobuses de TUSSAM a la Habana como gesto solidario", nota de prensa del Ayuntamiento de Sevilla
41. ^ Atenas.cu (2004). 2004 Population trends, by Province and Municipality. Retrieved on 2007-10-06. (Spanish)
42. ^ Statoids (July 2003). Municipios of Cuba. Retrieved on 2007-10-06.
43. ^ Castro’s Cuba in Perspective
44. ^ Havana's Chinatown - Cuba's Chinese population before the Revolution
45. ^ CIA World Factbook. Cuba. 2006. September 6, 2006.<https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html>.
46. ^ Sahrawi children inhumanely treated in Cuba, former Cuban official. MoroccoTimes.com (March 31 2006). Retrieved on 2006-07-09.
47. ^ Present-Day Jewish Life in Cuba
48. ^ 1,500 Jews who live in Cuba; 1,100 reside in Havana, and the remaining 400 are spread among the provinces.In Cuba, Finding a Tiny Corner of Jewish Life.
49. ^ (Spanish) La Escuela Nacional de Ballet - La Escuela desarrolla una experiencia única en el mundo, enmarcada en la Batalla de Ideas.
50. ^ (Spanish) Escuela Nacional de Ballet - entre 52 mil alumnos interesados, los cuatro mil 50 que integrarían los talleres
52. ^ Culture week of Coahuila in Havana
53. ^ Beijing-International Sister Cities
54. ^ New Monument to Tijuana's sister cities - Inaugura el alcalde Kurt Honold monumento dedicado a ciudades hermanas de Tijuana
55. ^ São Paulo's 40 Sister Cities
56. ^ Tehran, Havana named sister cities
57. ^ Sister Cities International (2007). Cuba Directory. Retrieved on 2007-05-07.
58. ^ Cusco Sister Cities


  • Havana: History and Architecture of a Romantic City. Alicia García Santana. Monacelli, October 2000. ISBN 1-58093-052-2.
  • The Rough Guide to Cuba (3rd ed.). Rough Guides, May 2005. ISBN 1-84353-409-6.
  • Barclay, Juliet (1993). Havana: Portrait of a City. London: Cassell. ISBN 1-84403-127-6 (2003 paperback edition). — A comprehensive account of the history of Havana from the early 16th century to the end of the 19th century.
  • Carpentier, Alejo. La ciudad de las columnas (The city of columns). — A historical review of the city from one of the major authors in the iberoamerican literature, a native of this city.
  • Cluster, Dick, & Rafael Hernández, History of Havana. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4039-7107-2. A social history of the city from 1519 to the present, co-authored by a Cuban writer and editor resident in Havana and an American novelist and writer of popular history.
  • Eguren, Gustavo. La fidelísima Habana (The very faithful Havana). — A fundamental illustrated book for those who wants to know the history of La Habana, includes chronicles, articles from natives and non natives, archives documents, and more.
  • United Railways of Havana. Cuba: A Winter Paradise. 1908-1909, 1912-1913, 1914-1915 and 1915-1916 editions. New York, 1908, 1912, 1914 and 1915. Maps, photos and descriptions of suburban and interurban electric lines.
  • Electric Traction in Cuba. Tramway & Railway World (London), 1 April 1909, pp. 243-244. Map, photos and description of Havana Central Railroad.
  • The Havana Central Railroad. Electrical World (New York), 15 April 1909, pp. 911-912. Text, 4 photos.
  • Three-Car Storage Battery Train. Electric Railway Journal (New York), 28 September 1912, p. 501. Photo and description of Cuban battery cars.
  • Berta Alfonso Gallol. Los Transportes Habaneros. Estudios Históricos. La Habana, 1991. The definitive survey (but no pictures or maps).
  • Six Days in Havana by James A. Michener and John Kings. University of Texas Press; 1ST edition (1989). ISBN 978-0292776296. Interviews with close to 200 Cubans of widely assorted backgrounds and positions, and concerns how the country has progressed after 90 years of independence from Spain and under the 30-year leadership of Castro.
  • One more interesting note about that edition of the New York Times: On page 5, there is a short blurb mentioning, "The plan for holding a Pan-American exhibition at Buffalo has been shelved for the present owing to the unsettled condition of the public mind consequent upon the Spanish-Cuban complications." President McKinley was assassinated at the Pan-American Exhibition when it was finally held in 1901.

External links

Havana is the capital city of Cuba (UN/LOCODE spelling Habana, code CU HAV). Havana can also refer to:



  • Ciudad de La Habana Province ("City of Havana Province"), the province of Cuba which includes the city of Havana

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Writing system: Latin (Spanish variant)
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Spanish (
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country, state, and nation can have various meanings. Therefore, diverse lists of these entities are possible. Wikipedia offers the following lists:

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Patria y Libertad   (Spanish)
"Patriotism and Liberty" a

La Bayamesa  
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province is a territorial unit, almost always a country subdivision.

Roman provinces

The word is attested in English since c.1330, deriving from Old French province (13th c.
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municipality is an administrative entity composed of a clearly defined territory and its population and commonly referring to a city, town, or village, or a small grouping of them. A municipality is typically governed by a mayor and a city council or municipal council.
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A mayor (from the Latin māior, meaning "larger", "greater") is the modern title of the highest ranking municipal officer.

In many systems, the mayor is an elected politician who serves as chief executive and/or ceremonial official of many types of
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Juan Contino Aslán is the current city mayor of Havana, Cuba. Contino was born October 12, 1960 in the city of Havana. He is the President of the People's Power Provincial Assembly of the City of Havana (mayor), a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party,
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Area is a physical quantity expressing the size of a part of a surface. The term Surface area is the summation of the areas of the exposed sides of an object.


Units for measuring surface area include:
square metre = SI derived unit

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square mile is an imperial and US unit of area equal the area of a square of one statute mile. It should not be confused with the archaic miles square, which refers to the number of miles on each side squared.
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elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, often the mean sea level. Elevation, or geometric height, is mainly used when referring to points on the Earth's surface, while altitude or geopotential height
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1 metre =
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1000 mm 0 cm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 in
The metre or meter[1](symbol: m) is the fundamental unit of length in the International System of Units (SI).
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1 foot =
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0 m 0 mm
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0 yd 0 in
A foot (plural: feet or foot;[1] symbol or abbreviation: ft or, sometimes,
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Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, humans in particular.

Biological population densities

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An urban area is an area with an increased density of human-created structures in comparison to the areas surrounding it. This term is at one end of the spectrum of suburban and rural areas. An urban area is more frequently called a city or town.
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metropolitan area is a large population centre consisting of a large metropolis and its adjacent zone of influence, or of more than one closely adjoining neighboring central cities and their zone of influence.
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time zone is a region of the Earth that has adopted the same standard time, usually referred to as the local time. Most adjacent time zones are exactly one hour apart, and by convention compute their local time as an offset from UTC (see also Greenwich Mean Time).
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Eastern Time Zone (ET) of the Western Hemisphere falls mostly along the east coast of Northern America and the west coast of South America. Its time offset is UTC-5 during standard time and UTC-4 during daylight saving time.
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UTC−5 is the time offset used in the North American Central Time Zone during Daylight Saving Time.

For North America see also Eastern Standard Time and Central Daylight Time.
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Daylight saving time (DST; also summer time in British English) is the convention of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less.
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Eastern Time Zone (ET) of the Western Hemisphere falls mostly along the east coast of Northern America and the west coast of South America. Its time offset is UTC-5 during standard time and UTC-4 during daylight saving time.
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UTC−4 is the time offset used in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone in Canada in winter and the North American Eastern Time Zone during daylight saving time (DST), as well as other countries.
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Writing system: Latin (Spanish variant)
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Spanish (
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International Phonetic Alphabet

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The International
Phonetic Alphabet
Nonstandard symbols
Extended IPA
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IPA for English The
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Capital City was a television show produced by Euston Films whichfocused on the lives of investment bankers in London living and working on the corporate trading floor for the fictional international bank Shane-Longman.
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Patria y Libertad   (Spanish)
"Patriotism and Liberty" a

La Bayamesa  
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Administratively, Cuba is divided into fourteen provinces and one special municipality.

List of provinces

From west to east, Cuba's provinces are:
  1. Isla de la Juventud
  2. Pinar del Río
  3. La Habana
  4. Ciudad de La Habana
  5. Matanzas

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Caribbean (Dutch: Cariben or Caraïben, or more commonly Antillen; French: Caraïbe or more commonly Antilles; Spanish: Caribe
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Latin America (Portuguese and Spanish: América Latina; French: Amérique Latine) is the region of the Americas where Romance languages, those derived from Latin (particularly Spanish and Portuguese), are primarily spoken.
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1 kilometre =
SI units
0 m 0106 mm
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0 ft 0 mi
A kilometre (American spelling: kilometer, symbol km
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