Theme Week Havana on Cuba

Saturday, 20 October 2012 - 01:37 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Havana Collage © Vitalia

Havana Collage © Vitalia

Havana (La Habana, officially Villa San Cristóbal de La Habana) is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region. The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbours: Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Atarés. The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay. The current mayor is Marta Hernández from the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). In 2009, the city/province had the 3rd highest income in the country. The city attracts over a million tourists annually, the Official Census for Havana reports that in 2010 the city was visited by 1,176,627 international tourists, a +20.0% increase from 2005. The historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Moreover, the city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and monuments.

Havana, by far the leading cultural centre of the country, offers a wide variety of features that range from museums, palaces, public squares, avenues, churches, fortresses (including the largest fortified complex in the Americas dating from the 16th through 18th centuries), ballet and from art and musical festivals to exhibitions of technology. The restoration of Old Havana offered a number of new attractions, including a museum to house relics of the Cuban revolution. The government placed special emphasis on cultural activities, many of which are free or involve only a minimal charge. Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. The city is the center of the Cuban Government, and home to various ministries, headquarters of businesses and over 90 diplomatic offices. Old Havana, with its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, is the traditional centre of part of Havana’s commerce, industry, and entertainment, as well as being a residential area.

Havana Collage © Vitalia National Capitol building © Yomangani Paseo del Prado © flickr.com - Hydn Blackey Neo-baroque apartment building © flickr.com - Phil Guest San Lázaro Street © flickr.com - Randolph Croft Old Havana by night © flickr.com - Gabriel Rodríguez/cc-by-sa-2.0 Havana © Vgenecr/cc-by-sa-3.0 Hotel Habana Libre © Sandino235/cc-by-2.5 Hotel Habana Riviera © flickr.com - Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/cc-by-2.0 Hotel Nacional de Cuba © Jongleur100 John Lennon Memorial in Cuba © Christopher Hughes/cc-by-sa-3.0-us Melia Cohiba Hotel © flickr.com - Phil Guest/cc-by-sa-2.0 Cine Yara © Sandino235/cc-by-sa-2.5 FOCSA Building, the tallest building in Cuba © Hmaglione10/cc-by-sa-4.0 Old Square © flickr.com - Brian Snelson
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FOCSA Building, the tallest building in Cuba © Hmaglione10/cc-by-sa-4.0
To the north and west a newer section, centred on the uptown area known as Vedado, has become the rival of Old Havana for commercial activity and nightlife. Centro Habana, sometimes described as part of Vedado, is mainly a shopping district that lies between Vedado and Old Havana. The Capitolio Nacional building marks the beginning of Centro Habana, a working-class neighborhood. Chinatown and the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás, one of Cuba’s oldest cigar factories is located in the area.

A third Havana is that of the more affluent residential and industrial districts that spread out mostly to the west. Among these is Marianao, one of the newer parts of the city, dating mainly from the 1920s. Some of the suburban exclusivity was lost after the revolution, many of the suburban homes having been nationalized by the Cuban government to serve as schools, hospitals, and government offices. Several private country clubs were converted to public recreational centres. Miramar, located west of Vedado along the coast, remains Havana’s exclusive area; mansions, foreign embassies, diplomatic residences, upscale shops, and facilities for wealthy foreigners are common in the area. The International School of Havana is located in the Miramar neighborhood.

In the 1980s many parts of Old Havana, including the Plaza de Armas, became part of a projected 35-year multimillion-dollar restoration project, for Cubans to appreciate their past and boost tourism. In the past ten years, with the assistance of foreign aid and under the support of local city historian Eusebio Leal Spengler, large parts of Habana Vieja have been renovated. The city is moving forward with their renovations, with most of the major plazas (Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas) and major tourist streets (Obispo and Mercaderes) near completion.

Read more on CubaHeritage.com – Havana, La Habana Guide, LonelyPlanet.com – Havana, Wikitravel Havanna and Wikipedia Havana. Photos by Wikipedia Commons.




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