The Bells Toll for Havana on Its 498th Birthday

Havana, Nov 15 (Prensa Latina) The bells of the Royal Force Castle, churches and old belfries in this capital are tolling today as part of a vigil to celebrate the 498th anniversary of Havana.

The Royal Force Castle is among the fortifications built in the 16th century to protect the city from the attacks of corsairs and pirates.

Havana played a key role in the history of navigation, culture and the big world-sharing dispute in the Caribbean, City Historian Eusebio Leal said at a meeting with the press in El Templete on Tuesday.

That Greco-Roman temple was built on the site where the first mass was held in 1519, under the shadow of a ceiba tree whose symbology Cubans try to honor by planting others in the same place when the tree dies.

Being one of the first villages founded by the Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, Havana is among the oldest historic cities and capitals in the continent.

The vigil on Wednesday will take place on the eve of November 16, Saint Christopher’s Day, Havana’s patron saint.

On the occasion of the new anniversary, several buildings will be inaugurated in Havana’s historic heart, including the Youth Center, which is equipped with all modern elements for Havana and Cuban youths to enjoy the art of making films and radio, study dance and use a modern library.

According to Leal, the institution is located amid a group of houses and museums that summarize the ideal of the Office of the City Historian.

The Royal Force Castle will host an exhibition of the treasures that have been found under the sea, and the new Museum of Archeology will be inaugurated at the Tacon Palace.

Tourists and city dwellers will be able to visit the Palace of the Captain Generals again, after most of its halls were totally restored and the portico, which was destroyed in 1852, was reconstructed.

Other buildings that were restored on the occasion of Havana’s anniversary were the Mural Painting Museum, the Taquechel Pharmacy in the Historic Heart, the Humboldt House, and several commercial establishments and houses.

Children will play again at La Maestranza Park, which was damaged by Hurricane Irma in early September.

According to Leal, an intense cultural program starts this year, including the issuing of post stamps, the coining of medals, the restoration of buildings, and the relocation of monuments that were damaged by adverse natural conditions to more suitable places.

Do not be astonished because we have to demolish buildings for which we struggled furiously for years, warned the passionate historian.

But Havana is now and it will be, undoubtedly, more beautiful, despite cyclones, winds, bans, sieges, we will always be able to bring down the wall and get through it. That is the story of the tree, and of us, it is like the tree of life, we take shelter under its shadow, he said a meter away from the ceiba tree

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