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Bay of Havana, a treasure to discover.
One of the options that we suggest when visiting Havana is to walk around the bay. The Bay of Havana itself and the buildings that reach its waters are examples of civil engineering, highly valued and important.
But to encourage you to observe it, what could we add? It is worth mentioning that it is one of the largest and safest bays in America and around the world. Its own form of bag offers security to the boats that dock and at the same time has a secure geographical and economic position.
In its waters, a historical event that marked the course of history on the island also occurred, the outbreak of the American ship Maine, a fact that served as a pretext for the United States to intervene in the War of 1895 that ended with the intervention and then the constitution of the Republic.
Background and history of the bay of Havana.
To know about the origin of the bay of Havana, we must remember that the foundation of the villas in Cuba was always linked to the presence of water. Havana or Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana was no exception. It was founded in 1519 and from that moment everything that happened in it was associated with this body of water, both in economic, political, social and cultural life.
At first this area marked the places of recreation for the local inhabitants and when the town began to show a flourishing development in all aspects it was necessary to think about protecting it. For this reason, in the face of the imminent attacks by corsairs and pirates and the threat posed by France, England and the Netherlands in their efforts to expand territorially, a defense system had to be established that occupied the territory from the mouth of what is now the Almendares River, formerly La Chorrera, up to the entrance to the bay channel.
Little by little platforms, trenches and some observation posts appeared, which later modernized and became one of the most important defensive complexes in all of Latin America.
1561 marked an important date in the Havana calendar, the Fleet of the Indies was established and the city observed a very rapid development precisely in the immediate areas of the bay. There the main residential centers and public buildings settled.
The fact that the wealth that came from the rest of the colonies entered this bay raised the need to ensure it even more. Thus, little by little, the castles of San Salvador de la Punta, Los Tres Reyes del Morro and the Wall of Havana appeared. Then the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña and the castles of Santo Domingo de Atarés and Príncipe were built.
The passing of the centuries have given much more importance to this bay, at one time, one of the most polluted in the world by the waste thrown into it and now a beauty that cannot be talked about without mentioning the Port and the Tunnel of the Bay.
Port of Havana.
Although almost no one docks in it as a passenger anymore, unless passing through Havana by Cruise, the port of Havana Bay deserves special attention. It was one of the most important during the colonial period in the entire region.
But at first the port was a rustic site with wooden berths and sheds on the land through which goods and passengers landed and which had a distribution divided by local needs.
The foundation of Guanabacoa with its farmhouses and the Regla´s virgin was very important. Likewise, the main docks occupied the space from the Force Castle to San Francisco Square for boats coming or leaving.
For the transfer of passengers and some merchandise, from the Muelle de Luz to the Baluarte de San Isidro. And of course to be able to repair the ships the Arsenal Dock.
But the constant economic development meant that until 1850 the docks were expanded and that life was not just embarking and disembarking. Many neighboring spaces enhanced life in Havana, including La Alameda de Paula, the Principal Theatre, La Cortina de Valdés and Paseo de Roncalli.
We already mentioned the network of fortifications to protect the bay and the city and which included the Torreón de San Lázaro, the El Morro in Havana, the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the Atarés Castle and others.
But if we talk about the port and elements that distinguish it, we can not fail to mention the lighthouse, located in the fortress of El Morro. The lighthouse was installed in the 18th century and it is curious that although several centuries have passed and the development imposes new techniques, it still works with the optics of French origin installed at the time of its construction.
It also includes all the original counterweight mechanisms and levers to operate it, although its system is now electric, the only significant change made to this work.
While passing through Havana, it is almost impossible that you never pass through the Havana Tunnel. Its construction was a necessity because before it existed it was necessary to make a detour of several kilometers through the bay to access the east of the city.
Moving from one side of the tunnel to the other takes less than a minute. This jewel was built in a space of two and a half years by a French company, the “Societé de Grand Travaux de Marseille”, under the technical direction of the Cuban engineer José Menéndez Menéndez from 1952.
Declared one of the Seven Wonders of Cuban Civil Engineering, the tunnel is 733 meters long. It has four paths to go or return that make possible the bottleneck so common in other countries.
This construction is submerged under the entrance channel of the bay at approximately 12 or 14 meters deep. It has a system of reinforced concrete pipes that are prepared to support a weight of thousands of tons of water, a fact that has happened for more than six decades with all the possible security. While passing through Havana do not miss the details about this part of the city.