In the Plaza de Armas, which in colonial times was the center of official and public life in Havana, stands a monument called El Templete. On its commemorative column there is an inscription in Latin, which means the following:
Stop the step, traveler, decorate this site with a tree, a lush ceiba, rather a memorable sign of the prudence and ancient religion of the young city, since certainly under its shadow the author of health was solemnly immolated in this city. The meeting of the prudent councilors was held for the first time more than two centuries ago: it was preserved by a perpetual tradition: however, it yielded to time. You will see an image made in the stone today, that is, the last of November in the year 1754.
In that place there was a ceiba tree and in the shade the first mass was celebrated and the Cabildo received the custody and custody of the privileges and privileges of the town of Havana, according to custom and usage of the laws of Castile. The commemorative column of the founding of the city was erected by the governor Don Francisco Cagigal de la Vega in 1754, when the ceiba could no longer be sustained.
But before the founding of Havana, in its current location, the city had, between 1514 and 1519, at least two different settlements: that of 1514, which in one of the first maps of Cuba, that of Paolo Forlano of 1564, locates the town at the mouth of the Onicaxinal River right on the shores of Mayabeque Beach, on the southern coast of Cuba and another settlement in La Chorrera, which is today in the Vedado neighborhood, next to the Almendares River, which the Indians called Casiguaguas, where the founders tried to dam the waters, currently conserving the retaining walls of this hydraulic work, the oldest in the Caribbean.
And the last settlement, which commemorates the Templete as the sixth town founded by the Kingdom of Spain on the island of Cuba, called San Cristóbal de La Habana by Pánfilo de Narváez.
In some maps and writings from the time of the conquest, a strategic military port for the Spanish Crown called Carenas is mentioned that some historians have wanted to associate with the bay of Havana and that in fact could have been due to its position, security and hidden entrance that went unnoticed by those who did not know it carefully. Later, Havana became a very important shipyard and famous for the quality of the woods it used and the skill of its craftsmen and shore carpenters, building here La Santísima Trinidad, a flagship of the Spanish Navy.
On July 10, 1555, the pirate Jacques de Sores attacked and took Havana after besieging the defenders of the primitive fortress for a day and the governor having cowardly fled to the neighboring site of Guanabacoa. Until August 5 he remained here and later, upset by the miserable ransom they gave him, burned the city and stole what he could. It is narrated that he lit the bonfire with the capitular acts and other existing documents. In fact, there is no written reference to the first years of Havana and only the capitular acts from 1556 are once again available.
According to Shoppingpicks, Havana resurfaced on several occasions from the rubble and ashes to which it was reduced from time to time by French pirates and corsairs during the first half of the 16th century, until in 1561 the Crown ordered the city to be the place of concentration of ships. Spaniards from the American colonies before leaving for the ocean crossing, for which military defenses were built at the entrance to the Bay of Havana and at strategic sites and managed to make it the best-defended city in the New World.
Gold and silver, alpaca wool from the Andes, emeralds from Colombia, mahogany from Cuba and Guatemala, leathers from Guajira, spices, Campeche dye wood, corn, potatoes, cassava, cocoa are the raw materials that arrive on sailboats. to the best protected port in America, between March and August, to form the large convoys that, guarded by military ships, leave on designated days for Spain.
With them, thousands of sailors, officials, settlers, merchants, adventurers arrive in the fledgling city, which grows from the port at a dizzying rate.
On December 20 of the year 1592, Felipe II grants to Havana the title of city, twenty – nine years after the governor of Cuba moved her his official residence from Santiago de Cuba, the seat until then the government of the island.
The strategic importance of Havana and the riches that flow to and from it make it a coveted target for pirates and galleons with marquees of the enemy powers of the Spanish Crown.
Havana was fortified during the seventeenth century by order of the kings who subscribed it as “Key of the New World and Antemural of the West Indies”. At the same time, the city is built with the most abundant materials on the island: woods, which provide the architecture of the time with a peculiar charm in combination with the styles from the Iberian Peninsula and, very profusely, from the Canary Islands.
In 1649 an epidemic of plague arrived from Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia, exterminated a third of the Havana population. The 30 of November of 1665, Queen Mariana of Austria, widow of Felipe IV, ratifies the old shield of Cuba, which had as its symbols the first three castles of the city: the Real Force, the Three Saints Reyes del Morro and San Salvador de la Punta, like three silver towers on a blue field. In addition, a gold key that symbolized the title of “Key of the New World”, granted since ancient times to the city.