Front Door to Cuba


Morro Castle

In 1514 conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez founded a settlement named after a local Indian chief, San Cristóbal de Habana. The settlement had to be moved a number of times because of mosquito infestations, but settled on the west side of Havana Bay in 1519.

Significant dates:

12/17/1519 - The first mass was celebrated in a ceiba tree. According to folklore, a descendant of that tree now stands at the east end of the Plaza de Armas.

1538 - French pirates and angry local slaves burned down the city. The royal crown responded by building the Castillo de la Fuerza (east of the Plaza de Armas) for protection. It wasn't enough.

Havana Harbor

1555 - French pirate Jacques de Sores attacked and plundered Havana.

1597 - The Castillo del Morro, strategically placed above the eastern entrance to Havana harbor was completed. The fort was expected to protect the city from attackers, but it was not sufficient. The city was raided by the English in 1622, 1623 and 1638.

1607 - The city of Havana was officially named the capital of Cuba

1762 - In January England declared war on Spain, and in June Havana was captured by a large British force. The British left the island in less than two years, and did not expand their occupation beyond the harbor. The following year the English and Spanish governments traded Florida (which had been captured by the Spanish) for Havana.