Havana, the Cuban capital, celebrated its 485th anniversary on November 16 with a varied program that included history retelling, social functions, cultural events and recreational activities. A faithful advocate of colonial architecture in both Cuba and Latin America, the city of Havana was founded in 1519 as the village of San Cristobal de La Habana.
In addition to its saint patron (St. Christopher), its name also stems from Habaguanex, aboriginal Spanish conquistadors found on the island upon arrival.
The foundational act took place in the 16th century under the shadow of a leafy ceiba considered a holy and magical tree in Cuba. Tradition has it that every November 15, as midnight closes in, people take three spins around the ceiba, toss a coin up in the air and make a wish to the city’s patron saint.
Hundreds of residents flock every year to El Templete in Old Havana to join the festivities headed by City Historian Eusebio Leal, the promoter of most of the burgs restoration process still underway. Local authorities and lots of tourists also attend the nightly celebration.
Havana has a population of 2.2 million inhabitants, according to the National Population and Housing Census carried out in 2002.
Some experts believe Havana is the most outstanding colonial city of the Spanish-speaking western hemisphere. The nation’s capital accounts for 52 percent of the country’s total revenues in tourism, over 40 percent of its manufacturing production and more than a third of its industrial output.
Pageants, habanera contests, concerts, exhibits, artistic performances, lectures and the 12th Meeting on Cooperation and Solidarity of City Halls with Havana were part of the celebrations.