November 1, 2014

1325 CUBA - Old Havana and its Fortification System (UNESCO WHS)

Havana extends mostly westward and southward from the bay with the same name, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbours. The Almendares River traverses the city, entering the Straits of Florida a few km west of the bay. Founded by the conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in 1514 or 1515, it was originally a trading port and suffered regular attacks by by buccaneers, pirates, and French corsairs, but subsequently, due to its strategic location, it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent.

It became a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and Spain. Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592, and walls as well as forts were built to protect it. As trade between Caribbean and North American states increased in the early 19th century, it became a flourishing and fashionable city. After the Confederate States of America were defeated in the American Civil War, many former slaveholders continued to run plantations by moving to Havana.

At the end of the 19th century, the city witnessed the final moments of Spanish colonialism in the Americas. The 20th century began with Cuba under occupation by the United States, which officially ended in 1902. During the Republican Period, from 1902 to 1959, the city saw a new era of development, but after the revolution of 1959, the abrupt expropriation of all private property and industry, followed by the U.S. embargo, hit Havana hard. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city experienced a severe economic downturn.

Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. 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. In the 1980s many parts of Old Havana began to be restored and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Old Havana, the most impressive historical city centre in the Caribbean, has maintained a remarkable unity resulting from the superimposition of different periods in its history, which has been achieved in a harmonious yet expressive manner through adherence to the original urban layout. Within it are many buildings of outstanding architectural merit, especially surrounding its plazas, which provide an overall sense of architectural, historical and environmental continuity.

El Capitolio Nacional, built in 1929 as the Senate and House of Representatives, is one of the landmarks of the city. The colossal neoclassical building, which recall the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., but it is only superficially similar, is recognizable by its dome which dominates the city's skyline. Inside stands the third largest indoor statue in the world, Statue of the Republic. Nowadays, the Cuban Academy of Sciences headquarters and the National Museum of Natural History has its venue within the building.

La Bodeguita del Medio, a typical restaurant-bar, is a famous tourist destination because of the personalities which have patronized it: Ernest HemingwaySalvador Allende, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gabriela Mistral, Agustín Lara, Nat King Cole, Marlene Dietrich, Nicolás Guillén, Josignacio and many others. La Bodeguita lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942, although this is disputed. The rooms are full of curious objects, frames, photos, as well as the walls covered by signatures of famous or unknown customers, recounting the island’s past.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of a series of orchides, issued on November 10, 1995.

Havana - Wikipedia
Old Havana and its Fortification System - UNESCO official website

Sender: Yuri
Sent from Havana (Cuba), on 26.07.2014

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