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Desamparados, the left bank of the bay. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Havana, Cuba

24 days ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Ports > Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

24 days agoPorts
Written by Ronald Toppe
Desamparados, the left bank of the bay. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Cuba November 24-28 2021.

On 24 November 2021, Statsraad Lehmkuhl entered Havana Bay with singing sailors in the masts.

Naval base

After Columbus landed on one of the islands in the Bahamas in 1492, he heard about an island further west that the natives called Cuba. Columbus was convinced it had to be Japan, and set sail. So, Cuba was one of the first islands the Spaniards came to after "discovering America".

Cuba was perfectly located as a starting point for the further conquest of America, and in 1515 the Spaniards decided to build a naval base on the south coast. But they soon discovered that port conditions were better on the north coast, and in 1516 the base was moved to a sheltered bay there, and Havana began to take shape.

Havana in the 17th-century. Image: Beudeker Collection
Havana in the 17th-century. Image: Beudeker Collection

The Spaniards built fortifications, but this did not prevent pirates from attacking, burning and looting the city several times in the 16th century. In 1607, three large fortifications were completed, and the capital was moved from Santiago de Cuba to Havana.

The city grew into an important trading city and shipping port for goods on their way from Latin America across the ocean to Spain.

A view from above. Photo: Ronald Toppe
A view from above. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Autonomy in 1902

In 1762, during the Seven Years' War, the British conquered the city from the Spaniards. They retained control for almost a year, before the Spaniards took over the city again, in exchange for Florida.

The Cubans tried to break free from Spain throughout the latter half of the 19th century, but remained Spanish until the United States occupied the island in 1898. The United States gave Cuba autonomy in 1902, but retained military control of the island. The country still has a military base in the far southeast of Cuba.

Cars are hard to get hold of, and oldies from the 50's are maintained and still in use. Photo: Ronald Toppe
Cars are hard to get hold of, and oldies from the 50's are maintained and still in use. Photo: Ronald Toppe

A haven

During the Prohibition era in the United States, from 1920 to 1933, Havana became a popular destination. An extensive tourism industry was built, with hotels, nightclubs and casinos, many controlled by the American mafia. The city continued to be a haven for wealthy Americans until the 1950s.

At the same time, the production of sugar and other agricultural goods increased. Cuba is also a major exporter of nickel, and in the 1960s the country was one of the richest in Latin America.

Havana is full of beautiful buildings. Photo: Ronald Toppe
Havana is full of beautiful buildings. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Took power

In 1952, Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba in a coup. The social unrest in the country increased, and in 1959 a guerrilla movement led by Fidel Castro took power. Cuba was declared communist in 1961, and has been ever since.

The United States has repeatedly tried to remove the Communists from power, and has imposed strict trade restrictions. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in the 1990s, Cuba's main economic supporter fell away and the economy stagnated.

A small shop in a back-street. Photo: Ronald Toppe
A small shop in a back-street. Photo: Ronald Toppe

In the last ten years, political changes have been made, and the economy is back on its feet, and tourism is on the rise. Years without maintenance still characterizes parts of Havana, but the city is pleasant, full of life and again a popular destination.

Normal maximum temperature in November: 27,7 ℃
Normal precipitation in November: 88,3 mm

Smiling faces are not hard to find. Photo: Ronald Toppe
Smiling faces are not hard to find. Photo: Ronald Toppe
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