Havana

Article

May 23, 2022

Havana (Spanish: La Habana [la aˈβana], Ciudad de La Habana officially) is the capital and economic center of Cuba. This port city is also one of the fifteen Cuban provinces. The city/province has a population of 2.4 million, while the metropolitan area has over 3.7 million, making Havana the largest city in the Caribbean. The city extends over more than 720 square kilometers mainly to the west and south of a bay, which is accessed by a narrow passage, and which is divided into three ports: Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Atarés. The Almendares River crosses the city from south to north, and empties into the Florida Strait a few kilometers west of the bay. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana city status in 1592, and a royal decree of 1634 recognized its importance by officially designating it as "Key to the New World and Bulwark of the Caribbean". The coat of arms of Havana also bears this inscription. The Spaniards began to build fortifications, and in 1553 they transferred the governor's residence from Santiago de Cuba, at the eastern end of the island, to Havana, granting it the de facto rank of capital. In 1607, Havana was designated the capital of the island by a royal order which also divided the country into two governments: one in Havana and the other in Santiago, the second being subordinate to the first. Today, Havana is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries are based there. It is also the economic and cultural center of the island.

Etymology

According to historians, the origin of the word Habana comes from the Taino cacique Habaguanex. Diego Velasquez in his report to the King of Spain, mentions that Habaguanex is the name of the chief of the tribe which controlled the region at the time of the arrival of the conquistadors in Cuba. A legend says that Habana was the first name of the daughter of Habaguanex, but no historical source corroborates this version.

Geography

The current location of the city is on the northern coast of the island of Cuba and in the western part of it. Havana therefore overlooks the Strait of Florida. More locally, the city extends mainly towards the west and the south of a bay, it is in fact a roadstead, closed by a narrow entrance making it possible to accommodate the presence of port installations, and whose the edges are dotted with creeks, the three main ones being called: “Marimelena”, “Guanabacoa” and “Atarés”. Havana is crossed by the Almendares, Martín Pérez, Quibú, Cojímar and Bacuranao (es) rivers. The Almendares River runs through the city from south to north, emptying into the Florida Strait a few miles west of the bay. The town reaches its highest elevation (60 m) at the limestone ridge that rises from the east of the town, and culminates in the vicinity of La Cabaña and El Morro, where colonial-era fortifications dominate the Bay. Its central position in the West Indies made it an important city during Spanish colonization.

Climate

Havana, like almost all of Cuba, enjoys a tropical climate. Average temperatures range from 22°C in January and February to 28°C in August. The thermometer rarely drops below 10°C. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Cuba was 0°C in Bainoa, in the province of Havana. Precipitation is heaviest in June and October, and least from December to April. The annual average is thus 1,200 mm. Hurricanes regularly strike the island, but they mostly affect the south coast of the island; thus, the destruction in Havana is less important than in the rest of the country. The climate is tropical savannah with dry winter (Aw according to the Köppen classification), all temperatures