Havana Harbor, Gateway To Havana.
Havana Harbor is the port of Havana, the capital of Cuba, and it is the main port in Cuba (not including Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, a territory on lease by the United States). Most vessels coming to the island make port in Havana. Other port cities in Cuba include Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba.
The harbor was created from the natural Havana Bay which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbors: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés.
It was fortified by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century who in 1553 transferred the governor’s residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital. The importance of these fortifications was early recognized as English, French, and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century. Later fortifications included the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, known asLa Cabaña or Fort of Saint Charles, built in the 18th-century on the elevated eastern side of the harbor entrance as the largest fortress complex in the Americas. The fort rises above the 200-foot (60 m) hilltop, beside Morro Castle. Castillo de la Real Fuerza and San Salvador de la Punta Fortress, both constructed in sixteenth century, sit on the western side of the harbor in Old Havana.
The Battle of Havana was a two-month siege of the harbor defenses by the British in 1762.
In January 1898 the USS Maine, the largest vessel to come out of an American shipyard, was dispatched to Cuba to protect US interests there. At the time more than 8,000 US citizens resided in the country, and their safety could not be assured in the state of affairs at that time. On February 15, 1898 the Maine exploded and sank in the harbor . It became a major rallying call for the Spanish-American War, and it caused the US to finally intercede on Cuba’s behalf. In 1910 the wreck was removed from the harbor as it was posing a hazard to navigation. It was sunk in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico with proper military ceremonies.
On March 4, 1960, the harbor was the scene of a deadly explosion when the French freighter La Coubre, carrying 76 tons of Belgian munitions, was being unloaded. The cause of the blast, which killed an estimated 100 people, is often attributed to the CIA who wished to overthrow the new government of Fidel Castro.
For more information, please see Havana Harbor.