The historical inception of Havana Cuba is traced back to the 16th century, with its location on the south coast near Botabano. The city is located on latitude and longitude 23 Degrees 80’ N, 82 Degrees 23’ W of Cuba (‘’Satellite view and map of the city of Havana’’), and has a fortress that symbolizes the Havana flag, and three castles representing the same. The three are the Fueza Castle, and a picturesque fortress guarding the main entry to Havana bay. However, the key represented the key of the city that Cuba had. In the earlier days, the city Havana was known to experience poor climatic conditions that forced its relocation to the present that lies in the north coast, as a result of the favorable climate of the area. Havana was initially occupied by the Spanish for years and continued on as a colony of Spain before it was taken over by the British, with the United States taking the land after a seven years war. During the period of the British occupation, there was transformation of cultural practices, which changed Havana from a port city into one that embraced fashion and design, and eventually earning the title of a city by King Philip in the year 1592.
Today, Havana is described in three ways, the old Havana, Vedado, which is Havana’s commercial hub (Sainbury 117), and the new district of suburban. It has a population of over 2 million people over 728 square kilometers. This makes it the largest by area and spanning over to the west and south when observed from the bay that is six kilometers squared. Besides, it casts as the inlet that divides the port into three harbors; Guanabacoa, Atares and Marimelena. It also extends covering a distance of about 30 km along the coastline.
Havana is Cuba’s capital city where majority of the government ministries are found, and also hosts several international offices and businesses that have operations in the country. The city is headed by a mayor who is the leader of the city council, having been elected through the communist party. It is listed among the cities with the highest income generation.
Population and Migration
The population of the city grew quite slowly as a result of the development policies that had been put in place by the government. These policies restricted the movement of the people who were migrating to occupy certain areas. Despite the efforts to put population growth under control in Havana, the Cuban population was also greatly hit by various acts of human rights violation that hindered the people from leaving the country (Luque, Escalona & Tellechea 1). Havana still remains a major migration destination, with the numbers growing even higher after the 2008 economic crisis. The main economic activity of the population was agriculture (Segre, Coyula & Scarpaci 243), with neighboring gardens all over, and urban farming also spreading to various parts of the municipality. Females with low birth rates and high life expectancy mostly occupy the population of the city that is commonly known as mulatto.
Language and Religions
The main language that is used in Havana is Spanish (Robert 144), with a smaller percentage of the population combining it with English. The city has well established educational institutions that teach English since most inhabitants often have pronunciation problems. With regards to religion, there are small communities that are occupied by people who profess the faith of Judaism. An estimated 1000 who profess this faith live in the city. Some of the common places of worship include Sephardic and Ashkenazi synagogue, the largest among the three is situated, that hosts the community center for the Jewish population.
Besides, there is also a cemetery located on the eastern part of Havana near the harbor. The city also has other facilities for spiritual worship like the revolution square that has a capacity of more than 300, 000 people and sometimes serves as an open air space for mass. However, there are also Adventist groups in Batabano, a municipality found in the south of Havana Cuba. These groups often hold regular conferences to impart skills on evangelistic missions. It should also be noted that the city has more than 42 Seventh Day Adventist churches (‘’Seventh Day Adventist churches in Havana’’), some located 100 miles from the city. Some of the churches include Adventist Christian Church, Moline SDA church and the Park Avenue seventh day among others. On the other hand, there is also a population that professes the Catholic faith. This is on roads where the signs and symbols like the status of Christ is built with marbles and erected on strategic places like hilltops. St. Francis of Assisi is one of the largest Catholic churches. It also acts as a center for concerts. This means that Catholic also exists in Havana, with other notable iconic places of worship being the senora del Carmen church.
Nuestra senora del Carmen church
Architecture and Icons
Havana is popular because of the largest electric architecture built to social strata, with the city ranked among cities like Buenos Aires that acquired the best architecture during the Vacas Gordas showing international influences of the art nouveau. The architecture of Havana is unrivaled, with most part of it done by Spanish immigrants. Most of the interior designs are similar to those in Cadiz and Granada. The prominent architectural designs in Havana are mainly as a result of sugar and coffee production that became the inspiration of the art. An urban planner from Paris named Jean Claude helped in shaping the urban planning and design in the city, by creating the master plan for connecting the transport network of Havana and designing prominent landmarks, although there recently been an influence from the architectural designs in Miami.
Some of the symbolisms of new urbanism include the Villa Panamericana and Sopa de Bloques (Birkenmaier & Whitefield 46). The influences are portrayed in one of the greatest buildings that house the International financial bank in Miramar that were done in the designs through frames and crowing. Havana takes the lead as one of the most diverse cities in terms of architecture globally, with several intricate roofs designed in Moorish style and the Spanish influence clearly brought out. The architecture is known to be among best tourist attractions in the city.
Havana is also home to amazing theaters, including baroque, the city’s great theatre (built in 1837 and features stones statue and marble decorations). Besides, there are also sculptures in the theatre that symbolize music, tutoring and art (Bedia 45), with the main aim of the building being to serve as an arts performing complex. The theatre has undergone double reconstruction (1994 and 2004), but has retained its traditional architecture.
In the 19th century, there were rapid developments that saw the addition of buildings with discolored glass windows, highlighting the architectural designs in terms of color. The buildings around Plaza Vieja had porches at entrances, with lean columns and arcade structures that portrayed discolored construction designs.
Examples of an Electric Décor
Havana represented an urban area in South America that was distinctively fortified, especially during the colonial period. Colonial masters used numerous resources around the city, enhancing the growth of rapid construction and art blueprint, as seen in military facilities like the ‘’La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana.’’
However, iconic figures were also instrumental in fostering the culture of arts. One of them was Alberto Korda who was popularly known as Alberto Diaz Gutiemerez. Born in Cuba on September 14th 1928, he attended college at Candler College where he specialized in trade and business. Later on, he moved to Havana Business Academy. He was known to be one of the best photographers in the Cuban history, working first at a sweet factory. He later on started his photography career as an assistant photographer mainly taking pictures at weddings, baptism ceremonies and banquets.
Eventually, he became the official photographer of the then President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, and more than a friend having run his own studio, Korda in 1953, which mainly focused on fashion and advertisements, due to his love for beautiful women. His photos were well known and recognized across the globe in their symbolic nature that pertained to revolution and rebellion. One of his renowned photographs is that of Che Guevara titled, Guerillero Heroico.
The photographs have for many years been largely printed on T-shirts and album covers after the death of Che Guevara, with many advertising agencies using the pictures to attract the youth population from buying the merchandise. Alberta Korda was reported to have obtained money from the pictures owing to his love for photography and fashion. He used some of the photos to represent stories of poverty. During the times of Fidel Castro, he applied his skills in photography, taking photos of the then president while in non-state functions, earning him accolades that offered him the opportunity to feature in Wender’s documentary in Buenos Aires.
During his last moments in the photography industry, Korda managed to showcase his photographs in a newly created newspaper that enabled him to contribute to issues of national interest. In the times of Fidel Castro, Kofrda was an accomplished photographer who later on succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 72 years old. He left behind a wife, Natalia Menendez. Fidel Castro is one of the conic leaders who have ruled the country in its history. He was a son to a famous sugar planter and was born in the Southeastern province in 1926. He studies law at the University of Havana upon which he ran for an elective post as the president of Cuba in 1952. However, he was overthrown by the then General Fulgencio resulting into cancellation of the election results. During the reign of General Fulgencio, Castro and Raul his brother stood in opposition against the president leading to his arrest and further imprisonment for 15 years. He was later released on amnesty and fled to Mexico, where he was joined by the late Che Guevara. After long struggle, Castro became the president and commander in chief of the Cuban armed forces in 1959.
Fidel Castro: An Icon of Cuban Politics
Fidel Castro became the head of the armed forces at a time when the country was in dire need of a solid leadership to turn around the economy. In response to this, he introduced changes in trade regarding trade plans with the USSR, making sure that nationalization prevailed within the industrial and commercial sectors. After long struggle with sickness, he announced his temporary absence from power and handed over to his brother in mid 2006 while undergoing gastrointestinal surgery. Since then, complications resulting from the surgery caused infections that prompted Castro to undergo several other surgeries. While still in ill health, Castro announced on February 19th 2008 that he would neither seek nor accept another term as Cuba’s president, effectively resigning as the leader of the nation. He is popularly recognized by the Cuban people for his efforts towards improving the country. He has been aggressive in the agitation of defending the sovereignty of Cuba.
Spectacles and the Arts
The art industry in Havana has been recently enhanced with the establishment of institutions dedicated to imparting artistic knowledge with elementary school called the Elemental 23 mainly introduced to offer skills in arts at the elementary level (Camnitzer 159).
Economic Base and Standard of Living
The major industrial activities include light manufacturing, petrochemical and warehousing. Havana also houses the country’s administrative offices with more than 90% of the labor force employed in state agencies, enterprises, and other governmental organizations. The city’s economy relied on sugar production which still remains an integral part of the economy. In the 20th century, tourism became an important contributing factor to the economy of Havana.
Havana serves as the main port of Cuba where products for exports pass through. The key exports are sugar, cigar and rum. Apart from the cultivation of sugar, Havana also has several pharmaceutical and chemical industries, shipbuilding industries and factories for meat packing. Besides, the fish industry is also well developed because of the port. Havana’s economy is undergoing revival through the transfer of most of the privately owned land to the state, to facilitate the creation of a centralized planning system. The system will be mainly focused on farming, with the state handing over 10 years leases of land to farmers occupying about 70% of arable land owing to the fact that a majority of the inhabitants own small businesses and are self employed, while retaining half of the profits earned for reinvestment.
To increase imports and exports, the government is planning to unify and re-evaluate the currencies so as to drive foreign exchange through simulation of demand relating to export, and also maintain inflation rates. Besides, it will also contribute towards the stabilization of the economy of the city. Havana shows a bright future, with plans of establishing the free trade area in the western part of the city to be constructed by Brazilians, and at the same time, a Brazilian company has expressed interest in building a glass manufacturing firm for exports, thereby offering employments to more locals and income in the form of taxes to the city.
Even though the prices of some goods and services like haircut have increased, small businesses that support most of the households have gradually re-surfaced. The middle class that mainly owns shops and restaurants are slowly picking up because of the reforms by the government, with the economic growth at 4% annually, and agriculture increasing and generating wealth to the locals. The living standards in Havana are also quite low unlike other places. This is as a result of the locally produced goods and services.
However, it is sad that the living standards once deteriorated due to an embargo imposed by the United States when the communist government was in place, coupled with the diminishing economic aid from Russia. The houses are standardized, and citizens line up for government aid in sugar, rice and chicken. This is because even the government employees earn incomes in the range of $8 to $20 per month. Besides, there is little activity shown by beauty shops, shoe repair, massage therapy and home restaurants known as paladares where food is prepared for both tourists and locals with stable incomes.
New duty free parks are being built adjacent to the Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, which will create employment opportunities to Havana’s population. There have also been numerous activities on the economic platform; foremost, the opening of an airport terminal to enhance international tourism, which will eventually accommodate commercial imports and exports, earning income to the residents of the city as well as the government. Havana and Cuba as a whole have experienced the consequences of economic crisis, embargo imposed by America because of measures that have been used. These measures range from a supportive policy regarding economic development to decentralized community based services aimed at raising the living standards of Cubans.
Environment and Environmental Problems
Havana is faced with a series of environmental problems. The lack of garbage points has impacted a number of risks within the capital city, causing poor sanitation resulting from a reluctantly accountable sanitation authority. The overall system of garbage collection is poor, making it easier for the breeding and spread of diseases. The sidewalks and streets are littered with garbage, portraying a poor image of the sanitation departments of the city. Other environmental problems in Havana are segmented into parts, with the first one giving a review of Havana’s main environmental flaws while the second one characterizing the problems. Other problems include inadequate management, treatment, and disposal of solid waste, noise and air pollution, deforestation and poor hospital waste management (Colantonia & Potter 141).
Although many industrial activities are not concentrated in the city, it is still faced with air pollution that results from the obsolete Russian equipment used in some industrial sites. The pollution in Havana from the country’s elements accounts for 53% which cannot be retrofitted to cut down air pollution. Heavy pollutions notably come from the electric power plants, metal working establishments, oil refineries, and gas production plants. The air pollution is caused by dust, industrial gases and smoke. Some of the industries that have been noted to contribute largely to pollution include Antonio Marceo in the Regla Municipality, which also disposes its solid and liquid wastes into river Arroyo Tadeo and Martin Perez.
The sewer system is also another environmental concern. In the city of Havana Cuba, more than 900,000 inhabitants do not have sewer system, meaning that human waste and sewage are dumped into streams and rivers. Having been built in 1915, the sewage system is obsolete, and currently serves 63% of the population of Havana. Waste is regularly collected and poorly disposed anywhere with garbage being burned in open air spaces causing great environmental concern. Water wastage is yet another environmental problem facing the city of Havana. Water leaks cause pollution that serves as breeding grounds for dangerous insects.
Unhealthy Street Conditions
An example of a street in Havana
The main environmental problem lies with the entire population of the city. People are turning to weird behaviors that even caught the attention of the then president, Mr. Fidel Castro. The city dwellers urinate on the streets, causing foul smell that is quite irritating. This is a detrimental vice to the image of the city regarding health matters. According to official estimates, Havana releases up to a million tons of garbage that end up in rivers and the sea. Besides, abandoned buildings within the city have also been turned into dumping sites for garbage, which serve as breeding grounds for infections like leptospirosis and dengue malaria among others.
Social and Political Problems
The city of Havana has spatially transformed but still experiences shortage of housing as a result of middle class emigration since there is no long term planning (Kapcia 152). Although there were new developments impacted by the emigration, the city is still faced with a shortage of social facilities, transport infrastructure, and the architecture of that period was mainly focused on style instead of quality. The streets, buildings and general infrastructure are worn out because of reduced funding, with most of the challenges experienced in the housing sector owing to the fact that Havana has the largest concentration of overcrowded housing structures (Pugh, Potter & Association of American Geographers Meeting 83).
Another social concern is that youths are exposed to higher fees levied by the government when accessing recreational and youth center facilities. This at some time caused demonstrations. Although there are reduced crime rates and drug related problems, it is important to note that the behavior of the Cuban people has even escalated to harassment of tourists who are the pillars of the city’s economy. The locals take bribes, sell goods after hoarding at higher prices and seek for favors to acquire help. There are cases where recently, prominent business people in the city were locked in prison, a move aimed at reducing the cases of corruption in Havana.
The political problems have significantly been a factor started by the United States, which has led to the enactment of laws preventing other countries from investing in Cuba. The current situation resulting from snow den was center of discussion in forum groups on asylum seeking. These laws have also limited access to financial institutions for loans, thereby curtailing the ability of Cuba to be given credit to fund the commercially viable and capable companies through repelling investors away from the country. Havana is an iconic city with some of the best architecture in the world. It continues to sail steadily on fashion and design in the 21st century.
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