Culture celebrates Havana's 500th Anniversary

, Cuba

On 5 November, a wide-ranging programme of activities will open the celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the city of Havana, to be commemorated on 16 November. The announcement was made at a press conference held on Monday, 4 November, at the former Santa Clara Convent, located in the Historic Centre of the Cuban capital.

The Historian of the City of Havana, Dr Eusebio Leal Spengler, eloquently led the audience through an imaginary tour of the Santa Clara Convent, its restoration process and its “inner mysteries”. The facility will soon be the Academic Training Centre in Arts and Crafts for Heritage Restoration in Cuba, the Caribbean and the Antilles, a project that will become a reality thanks to the contribution of the European Union and UNESCO.

Dr Leal announced that every week, starting Friday, 15 November, at 6 p.m., the Centre will open its doors to the public, who will be able to tour the Convent and appreciate a sample of the objects archaeologists rescued during its restoration.

The new centre of higher education will include in its curriculum courses on ancient languages, archaeology, landscape architecture, among others. It will house not only classrooms, but also spaces for cultural activities, events and workshops.

The prestigious Cuban intellectual also announced some of the works that will be inaugurated to mark the city’s 500th anniversary, including two libraries, one dedicated to children and the other to architecture, as well as a centre of design.

The Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Katherine Muller-Marin, was present at the ceremony, together with political and government authorities of the Cuban capital, the National Council for Cultural Heritage of Cuba and the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH).

Afterwards, OHCH specialists provided detailed information on the wide-ranging cultural programme commemorating the five centuries of the Cuban capital.

The works that will soon open their doors to the public, in addition to the libraries previously mentioned, include the Museum of the Firefighters, the Museum of the Cuban Railroad, the Museum of the Automobile, as well as the Atarés Castle and the Multipurpose Room in the Museum of the City. In addition, the North Cloister of the Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Hall of the Lost Steps in the Palace of the Municipal Government will also be inaugurated.

The National Capitol and two of its museum halls, respectively dedicated to the national symbols and the Constitution, will be inaugurated on the same day, 16 November. And as a finishing touch, in the evening, the flagship building will be completely illuminated.

The programme also includes activities such as lectures, exhibitions, workshops and international events including the Mozart-Havana Festival, the Classical Music Festival and the Contemporary Music Festival of Havana. Also dedicated to the capital’s 500th anniversary is the 22nd Week of Italian Culture in Cuba.

The traditional ceremony held every year on the anniversary of the founding of San Cristóbal de La Habana will begin on 15 November, on the eve of city’s founding, from the Palace of the Captains General to the Templete, where Dr Eusebio Leal will deliver a speech dedicated to Havana. Later there will be a gala, “Songs to Havana”, with the participation of outstanding Cuban artists.

The press conference ended with the presentation of an audiovisual by Zenaida Romeu, director of the Romeu Camerata, made with beautiful images of the city of Havana and three memorable pieces of Cuban music performed by the famous group.