Havana celebrates its 500th anniversary

By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor

HAVANA, Cuba – Havana, the third named and current capital of Cuba after Baracoa in 1511 and Santiago in 1515, will mark its 500th anniversary on November 16, 2019, with a series of cultural events and special attractions over a two-week period.

Havana, founded in November 16, 1519, after the Spanish colonisation, is now an eclectic hub of culture and history, attracting tourists from around the world. During the anniversary year, Havana is set to present a whole host of events featuring concerts, performances and parades that will bring the city to life over a 12-day period.

Colin Stewart, chairman of the Latin American Tourism Association (LATA), said: “In celebration of its 500th birthday in 2019, the vibrant city of Havana is undergoing a number of restoration projects due to be completed next year, which are expected to further boost tourism numbers and propel the city to the top of the agenda for UK visitors to Cuba.

In 2019, the city will welcome the launch of seven new luxury hotels, as well as a diverse programme of cultural events, including live concerts and theatre performances honouring the history of Havana.

“It has been an exciting couple of years for Cuba and Havana. The lift of US travel restrictions, the development of tourism infrastructure and the launch of new airline routes from Europe, have firmly placed the destination on the Latin America tourism route. We look forward to continue to work with our LATA members to promote sustainable tourism to Havana and Cuba,” Stewart said.

In addition to several tours of historic Havana that will be offered with tourism partners and the Cuban government, the unveiling of several new and privately owned hotels will be added as part of the attraction.

Ahead of 2018’s anniversary events, several buildings in the downtown area of Havana and surrounding areas have been restored in the run up to the historic date and subsequent festivals.

Earlier in May, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was officially briefed about preparations for celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary.

Diaz-Canel chaired a meeting of the government group tasked with supervising economic and social life in Havana, headed by the vice-president and economy minister, Ricardo Cabrisas, Granma reported and the events’ proceedings have been making significant progress towards this year’s special 500-year mark.