Havana: History

Capital of Cuba

Havana History

Havana has a rich and varied history, mainly owing to its position as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Spanish new world empire. The city’s origins began in 1510 with the arrival of the first Spanish colonists, although Havana in its current location on the north of the island was not founded until 1519. Traditionally a trading port and stop-off for Spanish conquistadors seeking the bounty of Mexico, Havana suffered a great deal from pirates and buccaneers. The city was attacked and burned for the first time in 1555, and was captured by pirates who plundered most of its wealth. This resulted in the building of several fortresses in the city by the Spanish crown, who sought to fend off pirates and exert more control over the surrounding area. During the 17th Century Havana grew exponentially, with many churches and civic buildings among the new constructions. Construction of city walls commenced in 1674. During the 18th Century, Havana rose in size to become the third most populous city of the Americas, and was subsequently captured by the British. The British then opened up new trade routes among other colonies and both Havana and other parts of Cuba began to flourish. Following the return of Cuba to Spain’s hands, however, the Spanish decided to turn Havana into one of the most heavily fortified cities in its empire. During the 1950s, Havana became a hotbed of both culture and corruption. American celebrities mixed openly with gangsters, and the city had more cinemas than either New York or Paris, all the while generating more revenue even that Las Vegas. The communist revolution of 1959 changed things, however, and the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba’s soviet regime resulted in a shocking drop-off in terms of Havana’s income. Today Havana represents a tourists dream. It is charming, historic and culturally diverse, yet still retains its air of unspoiled appeal.