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Havana is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city is one of the 15 Cuban provinces. Havana has 2.1 million inhabitants, being the largest city in Cuba and the second largest in the Caribbean region, after Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic.

King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of "City" in 1592 and a royal decree in 1634 recognized its importance by officially designating it the "Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies".

The Spaniards began building fortifications, and in 1553 they transferred the governor's residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.

Present day Havana is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries and headquarters of businesses are based there.

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Plaza de la Catedral is one of the most authentic and well preserved squares in Havana, with the cathedral and surrounding buildings almost all restored to their original splendor. The Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana is an 18th century building located in the north side of the square. On the opposite side is the oldest building, which dates from 1720, the Museo de Arte Colonial, an architectural masterpiece that is built around a central courtyard containing tropical plants. Other buildings lining this square now house cafés, restaurants and an impressive post office.

Another attraction of the plaza is its flower selling ladies, dressed in multi-colored local outfits to allure the tourists. They give kisses for two pesos, without forgetting to renew their lipstick after serving each client. :-)

Scanned from slide, increased sharpness, cropped, levelled.

Sources:
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Additional Photos by Erdem Kutukoglu (Suppiluliuma) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 266 W: 105 N: 604] (3931)
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