Havana is the capital of Cuba. Within its insular Caribbean scope it is a megacity with over two million inhabitants whose origin dates back to 1514, first to the south, at the left border of Carenas Port, in the surroundings of Batabanó; later on to the north, at the mouth of the Casiguaguas River, according to the native population, or Almendares, according to the Spaniards. However, the exact date of its foundation by Diego Velázquez has not been set precisely, so it was considered to be on November 16, 1519, day in which a mass to bless its final relocation was held. According to tradition, the mass was held under a Ceiba tree where, in 1828, the Templete was built in commemoration of said date containing in its interior two canvases by painter Juan Bautista Vermay representing that ceremony and a third canvas representing the inauguration of the building, the first civil monument in Cuba.
San Cristóbal de la Habana had a very modest origin; barely some huts for the first settlers, a church and a square-like open space for public gatherings. Its growth started around 1556 when it was declared the main navigation transit port between the New World and Spain. Then, the villa gained importance and its development was accelerated. Affluent farmers and military officials settled down there and it gradually became a colonial city proclaimed as capital of the island in 1592 and trading emporium in the American Mediterranean.
Towards the middle of the 19th Century, the Cuban capital had some 150 settlers and approximately 600 hectares of urbanized area. Those were times of effervescence and progress. Streets were paved and people began to enjoy night live and culture and important personalities revealed themselves. University classrooms were opened and multiple societies with different orientations emerged, among them the outstanding Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (Economic Society of Friends of the Country) for its work devoted to the prosperity of Cuba.
From that monumental work there is still the cannon-shot ceremony at nine o´clock at night as a daily tradition from the Castillo de La Cabaña. Its great colonial buildings have become important museums where Cuban history and culture travel together.
Today, the city covers an area of 732 square kilometers. It has 15 municipalities and over two million inhabitants. It houses the central government of the country and the most important institutions; it also has interesting museums, universities, theaters and cultural centers. It is the "City of columns", as Alejo Carpentier once said, the city guarded by fortresses for many centuries, the city with the Cathedral that best developed the Baroque style in the New World. It has many charms and mysteries and its historical core has been declared Heritage of Mankind living today with its humane and marine essence.