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Founded in 1514 by Panfilio de Narváez by the orders of Diego Velázquez, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for Old Havana boasts a rich architectural legacy. This international recognition says a lot about this historic city, which was the jewel of the Spanish colonies. In those days, it was a mandatory stop for all Spanish galleons transporting silver and gold from all the country's colonies to Europe, and it was from here that the Spanish set off to conquer America. Ever since, the Cuban capital has been at the centre of all major developments in the country's turbulent history, from the wars of independence in the previous century to the Revolution of 1959. As a first-hand witness to these events, it has a unique cultural and historical legacy. It is here, in the shadow of the thousands of columns that characterize Havana, earning it the nickname "City of Columns", that politicians have determined the history of the country.
From 1898 to 1902, Havana was ruled with a firm hand by the United States following the signing of the Treaty of Paris by the Americans and the Spanish. The Republic, indirectly governed by Washington, saw its capital city change radically under the Americans' influence, which affected everything from local residents' lifestyle to the city's architecture. Some buildings serve as reminders of the 1940s and 1950s, when the capital was dominated by casinos, cabarets and nightclubs. In those years, it was known as the "Pearl" or "Monte Carlo" of the Caribbean; rum flowed like water in plush lounges, and American gangsters and mafiosi flocked here to gamble.Of course, Havana is no longer what it was; Fidel Castro's ascension to power in 1959 and the establishment of a socialist system altered the habits of local residents.Havana is no ordinary tropical city, one of those places that make you feel like you're looking at a postcard. It has depth and character (don't expect to learn all its ins and outs overnight), emanates mystery from every nook and cranny and is a past master in the art of seduction.
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