Havana (Spanish: La Habana, pronounced: [la aˈβana] (listen )) is the capital and largest city of Cuba and is located in the province Ciudad de La Habana. It has about 2.4 million inhabitants. A city with a rich historical and cultural tradition, it is characterized by being eclectic and monumental at the same time.
As the area where it is located today became known by Spanish colonists in 1514, with the name of Villa de San Cristóbal de la Habana, its current location, next to the port of Carenas, only happened in 1520, the official year of foundation.
Called The City of Columns by writer Alejo Carpentier, it has a metropolitan area of more than 750 km² and is made up of numerous neighborhoods, including El Vedado, El Cerro, La Víbora, Miramar, Marianao, Santos Suárez among others.
In the 17th century, it became one of the most important cities in the Caribbean and a center for shipbuilding. Its historic center contains an interesting mix of Baroque and Neoclassical monuments, as well as a homogeneous set of private houses with arcades, balconies, gates and patios.
Havana is home to important international cultural events such as the Havana Ballet Festival, the New Latin American Cinema Festival, the Jazz Plaza Jazz Festival and the Leo Brouwer International Guitar Festival.
A city that has inspired poets, writers and musicians for centuries and that captivates those who know it, Havana is the birthplace of the modernist poet and writer José Martí, after whom its airport is named, José Martí International Airport.
It is also known as the key to the New World for its strategic location. It hosted the Pan American Games in 1991.
The Old City of Havana and its fortifications were included by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in 1982.
At Plaza San Francisco de Asís in January/February 2015, the largest outdoor art exhibition in Cuba took place: the international exhibition of the United Buddy Bears with an estimated public of 2 million people.
Colonial and Baroque
During the time when Cuba was a colony, great riches were brought to the island and, through the city of Havana, much of the important transshipment between the New World and Europe was carried out. As a result, Havana was the most fortified city in the Americas. Most examples of early architecture can be seen in military fortifications such as the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña (1558 - 1577), designed by Juan Antonelli, and the Castelo del Morro (1589 - 1630).
The castle is at the entrance to the Bay of Havana and provides a view of the supremacy and wealth of that moment. The so-called Old Havana was also protected by a defensive wall whose construction began in 1674, but the city had already grown beyond these limits when it was completed in 1767, while the new neighborhood of "Centro Habana" was started.
You can see the influence of different styles and cultures in colonial Havana architecture, which include Moorish, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Roman. The Convent of Santa Clara (1638) is a good example of the Spanish Baroque that influenced architecture. The large windows in the vestibule look like an inverted ship and show the skill of the artisans of the time.
The Cathedral of Havana (1748 -1777), which dominates the "Plaza de la Catedral" (1749) is the best of Cuban Baroque. Surrounding it are the palaces of the Counts of Casa-Bayona (1720 -1746), Marqueses de Arcos (1746) and Marqueses de Águas Claras (1751 -1775).
Havana owes an architectural debt to the rhythmic arcades that were built mostly by Spanish immigrants. Many interior courtyards remain similar to the plans for Seville, Cádiz and Granada. Neoclassicism affected all new Havana buildings and can be seen all over the city. Many urban benefits were introduced at that time.