"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call: Havana -- Plaza de Armas

Monday, December 10, 2018

Port of Call: Havana -- Plaza de Armas

Our last stop on our walking tour of Old Town Havana was the Plaza de Armas. It is the oldest plaza of Havana and dates back to around 1519 when Havana was first established. The name has to do with military arms and is where there were military parades, music concerts, and formal evening promenades.

The Plaza de Armas was the administrative and political center into the mid-twentieth century. The buildings surrounding the square are representative of four centuries but the one that caught my attention was the one with a great story behind it--or perhaps I should say in front of it.

The wooden street.
The Placio de los Capitanes Generales or Palace of the Captain Generals was a beautiful building that is not a museum. All of the streets around the plaza are cobble stone except for the stretch in front of the palace. As our guide told us, one of the generals (or governors) had a wife who complained that the noise of the horses and carriages kept her awake. In order to have peace in the family, he ordered that the cobble stone in front of the palace be replaced with wood.

This plaza had quite a nice park with trees and flowering bushes. In the center was a statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the man who began the process of independence from Spain.

The other interesting building on the plaza is El Templete which almost looks like a Roman temple. It is on the site of the first mass ant the town council of Havana on November 16,1519. There is a ceiba tree in the courtyard that marks the place where the mass was held. Every year people gather near midnight of the 15th and as the new day arrives they circle the tree three times and make a wish for the future as a celebration of the anniversary.

A lady dressed in bright clothing was wandering through the tour groups and encouraging people to take pictures with her for a CUC ($1 USD). Our tour guide had told us about these ladies who wear very red lipstick so they can plant a bright red kiss on your cheek for the picture. It was obvious that the cruise industry is having an impact on their economy as the lady stopped our tour guide to ask when the next cruise ship was expected.

While some on our tour went off with the tour guide at the end of our tour to buy some scarves at a store that wasn't on our prohibited list, we told her thank you, gave her a tip, and made our way back to the ship which was a short walk along the Malecon, the sea wall that extends along the water's edge of the harbor for almost 5 miles.

The day was heating up or I may have been tempted to explore on our own a bit. Old Town Havana was fascinating.

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