This article discusses the capital city of Cuba. For other uses of Havana/Habana, see Havana (disambiguation) Havana (Spanish: La Habana IPA pronunciation: [a'βana]), formerly Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana; UN/LOCODE: CU HAV) is the capital of Cuba. The city is also one of the 14 provinces in Cuba, with the province named "Havana City" (Ciudad de La Habana). With a city population of more than 2.3 million people and a metropolitan area population of more than 3 million people, Havana is the largest city in Cuba and in the entire Caribbean. The city is located about 144 kilometers south-southwest of Key West, Florida. It is situated on the southwest coast of Cuba, overlooking the Florida Strait, and is surrounded by the Province of Havana to its south, east, and west.
Havana is the largest city and main port in the West Indies Archipelago. The location of the city which was founded in 1515 is relatively strategic. Its main exports are sugar, fruits and tobacco. Morro Castle is located at its harbor entrance.
The territory of present-day Havana and its natural bays was first visited by Europeans on a voyage by Sebastián de Ocampo around the island in 1509. Shortly after, 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 island's southern coast, near the present-day town of Surgidero de Batabanó. Between 1514 and 1519, the city had at least two distinct locations. An older map of Cuba, made in 1514, places the city at the mouth of the Onicaxinal river, also on Cuba's southern coast. Another location was La Chorrera, which is now in the Puentes Grandes neighborhood, next to the Almendares River. The latter location, commemorated by El Templete, was the sixth city built by the Spaniards on the island, named San Cristobal de la Habana by Pánfilo de Narváez: This name combines the names of San Cristóbal, the patron saint of Havana, and Habana, whose origin is clear, possibly from Habaguanex, the name of an Indian chief who ruled the region, cited by Diego Velasquez in his report to the king of Spain. A legend has it that Habana was the name of the beautiful daughter of Habaganex, but none of the known historical sources confirm this version.
Havana moved to its present location next to what was then known as Puerto de Carenas (literally, "Ship Repair Bay"), in 1519. The quality of this natural bay, which now houses Havana's harbor, supported this change of location. Bartolome de las Casas wrote:
...one of the ships, or both, needed repairs, in the sense of renewing or repairing the parts that were under, and coating them with tar and wax, and entering the harbor which we now call Havana, and there the ships it was repaired so that the port was called de Carenas. The bay is excellent and can accommodate many ships, which I visited several years after the Discovery...there are few in Spain, or elsewhere around the world, that compare to it...
Shortly after the construction of Cuba's first cities, the island served little more than a base for the Conquista (conquest) of other areas. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from here. Cuba, in the first years of the Discovery, provided no direct wealth to the conquistadores, as this area lacked gold, silver and precious stones, and many of its settlers moved to the more promising areas of Mexico and South America, which began to be discovered and colonized at that time. The legends about Eldorado and the Seven Golden Cities attract many adventurers