The Wall of Havana, walking after history

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

Other of the responses of the Spanish crown to the constant Corsair and Pirate attacks was the Wall of Havana (La Muralla de la Habana), a stone wall that surrounded the main part of the city and it even divided it into the Havana walled-in city and the Havana walled-out city.

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

We'll be referring to this subject in these lines where we'll also help you discover the fragments of that construction that is still standing in the Cuban capital.

The first Stone and more than half a century of work

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

From 1603, there was a project in order to build walls around the city and then strengthen its defense, mainly in the zone of the bare coast and the forest, in the part of what would later be "El Vedado", that was an obstacle between the sea and the city. However, an initial analysis showed that the cost of the project- initially agreed to be done in three years- would be too expensive and other variants were considered.

They thought about making a wooden Wall or in its absence, border the city with a huge moat like in the castles of medieval times. Both ideas were rejected, the first one because a fire would had reduced into ashes the wooden wall and the second one because a moat represented insalubrious conditions for the villa and unease and danger for its inhabitants.

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

And then, the project was condemned to be forgotten during years, in the 1670's the first stone was placed and the construction of the Wall of Havana, although it was thought it could take 36 months, lasted almost 70 years, till it was completely finished, in the 1740.

Finally, the extension of the wall was 4892 meters and it is 1,4- meter wide and ten meters high. A team of 3400 men and 180 pieces of all calibers surrounded that trench that never defended the city from any specific attack. It didn't even have to face real threatening machines because the English occupied Havana, in 1762, taking advantage of the hill where the Cabana Fortress is located.

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

At the beginning, the wall had only two gates: the "Puerta de la Muralla" (at Muralla St.)- later called the "Puerta de Tierra" (gate of land) – and the "Puerta de la Punta" (at La Punta). Afterwards, other gates were opened and the number grew to nine. At 4:30 in the morning, the reveille was sounded and the cannon was shot. This was the signal for the raising of the portcullis, lowering the drawbridge and opening the gates to the movement of the city that was inside the walls(Intramuros) and the one growing out of the walls (Extramuros).

In the evening, the shot of another cannon announced that the drawbridges were lifted, the gates were closed and from that moment on, it was impossible for everyone to go in or out. This time was later changed to 9pm, as it is nowadays where the cannon shot is still fired, symbolically from the Cabana Fortress.

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

Of course, inside the walls lived the most exclusive group of the population while on the other side of the wall began to grow what would be the first traditional quarters of Havana: Los Sitios, Jesus Maria, San Lazaro, and Pueblo Nuevo, where the humblest population lived.

But many other activities were growing far from the walled-in city, what also made more remarkable the uselessness of that colossus construction. Then, in 1863 its demolition begins with a solemn ceremony to celebrate the union of the two separated cities, the demolition began through the great wall of the Gates on Monserrate and it didn't finally conclude till the beginning of the 20th century.

The Wall, more than a century afterward

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

At present, even when carelessly let behind, many fragments of the wall can be found scattered around the city. The most outstanding one, on Egido and Desamparados, is a few steps from the Central Railway Station.

Come here, a hundred of meters of that monumental construction site are waiting for you. Opened, both sides of what it was the Gate on Tenaza, in such a way that you can feel what people from Havana did with the coming and going inside or outside the wall. A plaque, proves that the fragment of the wall has been preserved:

"...like a historical relic included in the Plan of Works of the Dr. Ramon Grau San Martin's Government. Ministry of Public Works, architect - Jose R. San Martin. Year 1948."

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

Such plaque, also illustrates the layout of the wall around the city. A snapshot next to this plaque, is something that would make history, your own history.

Just a few meters, limiting with the Desamparados Avenue in the middle, another smaller fragment of the wall. Facing it, there is small monument erected to the "Caballeros de la Luz" Order a tribute to Cayo Hueso:

"...where an exceptional group of Cubans work with determination till achieving the independence of the homeland, next to the Apostle."

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

That monument was erected in 1953, when commemorating the centenary of Jose Marti's birth.

In Havana, like centuries ago

The Wall of Havana, walking after history

Walking around Havana and feel that it was once divided by a wall, knowing that during 123 years (from 1740 to 1863) was necessary to await by a signal to cross the other side, is like being part of a fantasy. That fantasy is there, just across from the Central Railway Station, at the Surveyor's Plaza where it is preserved what it was once the "cuerpo de guardia" (sentry box) of the New Gate, but it is also in front of the Museum of the Revolution and pretty close to the Royal Force Castle - across from the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary where other fragments of the wall are eternal witnesses that we once had a walled-in Havana and another, quite different and emerging, further away from that stone colossus that was the Wall of Havana.

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