La Habana Vieja

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t A restaurant, shaded beneath one of the arcades on Plaza Vieja

Experience La Habana Vieja

The historic heart of Havana, which was declared part of the “cultural heritage of humanity” by UNESCO in 1982, is the largest colonial centre in Latin America. The city was founded here in 1514, as San Cristóbal de la Habana by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, and it quickly became the chief dock for transporting treasure from the Americas to Spain. This affluence attracted pirates and in 1555 the French buccaneer Jacques de Sores sacked and burned this part of the city, triggering Spain to fortify the area. By 1863, Cuba’s capital had grown beyond La Habana Vieja’s walls due to the constant ebb and flow of precious cargo through the port.

In the early 20th century, however, the area had fallen into disrepair and it became an area where crime ran wild. By the end of the 1980s, the area had no working plumbing and electricity. After years of neglect, restoration work under the direction of Eusebio Leal Spengler, the historiador de la ciudad (Superintendent of Cultural Heritage), is reviving the former splendour of this district.

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