Havana is alive and happening and one of the most popular tourist destinations for Europeans. You’ll find the Cuban people educated, warm, passionate and amazing people. Communism and the embargo have not dampened their spirits and if anything made them more resourceful and stronger. My interest in the Island came about from seeing the infamous film “I am Cuba”… a visually striking black and white propaganda film, shot in the 1950s. It was a Russian-Cuban collaboration and regardless of the politics, it’s a masterpiece of cinematography. With streets filled with pastel-colored colonial buildings, music drifts out from every door and window. The Cubans live for music and song. Havana also hosts some of the best examples of modern 20th Century architecture in the form of its 1950s hotels, built by foreign companies to accommodate all the westerners that visited in those bygone years.
King Philip II of Spain gave the title of “City” to Havana in 1592. Soon it was called “Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies” and the city’s coat of arms still bears these words. The Spaniards began building fortifications, and occupied the island more as a staging area for the incoming explorers, but soon it became a booming city, as the all the riches from the New World and the Orient passed through its ports. The United States tried many times to annex or forcibly take over the island, but failed to do so. After the revolution of 1959, the communists promised to improve the way of life but met many shortages due to the strong communist model and the embargo of the United States. Recently, after 50 years of prohibition, the socialist government increasingly turned to tourism for new financial revenue, and has allowed foreign investors to build new hotels and develop the hospitality industry.