The search for new marketing routes prompted the Spaniards to the arrival of a new continent. America, which did not exist until the fifteenth century, began to appear on the new world maps. Recall that by this time the planet was flat. The young Genoese sailor Cristóbal Colón made 4 exploration trips to this new continent; in fact, he dies without knowing what had come to a new continent.
Within the first territories arrived by the Iberians is the island of Cuba, baptized by the sailor as “the most beautiful land that human eyes saw”. In order to settle on the island they established the creation of villas in which they would occupy the Cuban territory. These were Our Lady of the Assumption of Baracoa, San Salvador de Bayamo, Santa María de Puerto Príncipe, The Holy Trinidad, the Villa of Sancti Spíritus, San Cristóbal de La Habana in 1514 and the Villa of Santiago de Cuba.
Havana was initially founded on the southern coast where the Mayabeque River flows, but the conditions of this territory were not conducive to the establishment of important ports given the shallow depth of that coast. Then it was transferred to the immediate vicinity of the Chorrera, a settlement known as Pueblo Nuevo and finally, the legend tells us that on November 16, 1519 the first mass and the first town hall was formalized under a leafy ceiba tree. In homage to this momentous event, a ceiba tree has been planted next to the temple, a neoclassical style building that reflects the first moment of the emergence of this new city.
Within the first maps of the nascent Havana, it is worth mentioning the existence of the major Parish Church, San Ignacio Street, which was the central artery of Havana that crossed from north to south and a chain that was the sea wall that prevented the entry of unauthorized ships to the bay of Havana
The demographic growth of Havana was particularly rapid, beginning with a first population census in 1544 of 40 inhabitants until 2019 that has Havana with 2 130 000 inhabitants.
Havana currently has a set of urban values that include an intact urban structure, a network of squares and small squares, a system of fortifications, a religious system and an architectural complex consisting of 3370 buildings.
Among the squares and small squares there are five large squares: the Cathedral Square, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, the Plaza Vieja and the Plaza del Cristo del buen viaje. Since its emergence, each of them had a certain functionality that revolved between military and leisure purposes.
It should be noted that within the system of fortifications since Havana since its inception was motivated by the constant siege of privateers, pirates and filibusters. It should be noted that from the early date of 1555 the French pirate Jacques de Sores attacked Havana precisely because of the land that the National Hotel of Cuba occupies today, headed overland to the hamlet that was Havana at the time and left it practically in ruins To defend the beautiful jewel, it was necessary to create several military sites among which were the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, San Salvador de la Punta, La Cabaña, the three Reyes del Morro, a group of towers among which were the Torreón de San Lázaro, the Torreón de Cojímar and the Torreón de la Chorrera and later, by the end of the 18th century, La Bateria de Santa Clara precisely in the place where the Hotel Nacional de Cuba is located.
By land, defense structures were also built, such as La Muralla, of which there are remains in the city today. Within the religious system we can emphasize that in almost all the squares of old Havana there is a construction for these purposes. It is worth noting the Plaza de la Catedral with its church, the Plaza de San Francisco, the Plaza de Armas that the Main Parish Church initially had, where the Palace of the General Captains and the Plaza del Cristo del buen viaje are today. The old square always served for social events and recreation and leisure.
As a fundamental artery of Old Havana is the Bishop Street which is one of the busiest streets for all foreigners who visit us since it allows us to feel within the 18th century and its history.
In 1728, the Royal and Pontifical University of San Gerónimo de La Habana was created, being the first university in Latin America and today it has the school where all the specialties for the conservation of Cuban cultural heritage are studied.
The Capitol has been restored, on this we can highlight that this property was inaugurated in 1929 and was built by the Purdy and Henderson Company, the same that built the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. The Capitol is one of the greatest exponents of eclecticism; inside each of the rooms have different architectural and artistic styles. In addition, its lobby houses the third largest indoor sculpture in the world: the Statue of the Republic, it also has two hemicicycles with interior courtyards.
The “Knight of Paris” is one of Havana’s cultural traditions, since this was a man who had been accused of stealing a client’s belongings, but the robbery was not true. While in prison he suffered from his shame and lost his sanity. He was always elegantly dressed in very old clothes but was totally harmless. He sat with the children and said he was a gentleman from Paris. He told anecdotes of his past life, he gave women flowers. Subsequent investigations showed that it was not really from Paris, it was Spanish. Currently, in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, in the historic center of the city, there is a sculpture of the Knight’s must-see.
Dr. Emilio Ruiz de Leuchsenring was appointed historian of the city of Havana on July 1, 1935 and the historian’s office was created in 1938. Roy died in 1964 and left his entire legacy to Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler historian of the city until the present. Within the work of Eusebio Leal, it is worth highlighting the deep work of rescue and conservation of what is now considered the historic center of the city and some surrounding points of high heritage significance.
The historian’s office contains a great social work maintaining schools, houses for children without subsidiary protection, maternal homes, homes for the elderly. He has a great community work where the performing arts as well as the plastic arts are involved in dance, culture as a transversal axis of development, has an extensive network of museums and other cultural centers such as galleries concert halls and so on. It also has specialized houses-museums, among which are: the house of Africa, the house of Asia, the house of the Obrapía, the house of the Arabs and the house of Mexico.