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Arms Square: A Cultural and Historic Treasure in Old Havana

Havana, Cuba's most important city and a major player in the national tourism industry, is a favorite place for thousands tourists who bet on the Caribbean Island to spend their vacations every year.

The primary nucleus of the Cuban capital, founded in 1519, still preserves a collection of castles, fortresses and buildings with high patrimonial values, which were constructed around a system of squares, monasteries and temples.

Those open areas characterized the structure of the so-called inner city, in which the Arms, Cathedral, Old, Christ and Saint Francis squares played a major role.

The Arms Square is regarded as the heart of the old city, since the expansion of the Village of San Cristóbal de La Habana started from there.

It is closely linked to the tradition of the first town council, held under the shadow of a big ceiba, near the coast, on November 16, when the first steps in the creation of the current capital of the country were taken.

It was precisely near that tree, renovated by several generations of Cubans, that the first square of the village was built. However, it was not until 1584, when the Spanish troops began using the plaza to carry out military exercises, that it was called Arms Square.

Statue of Carlos M. de Céspedes
City Museum
Arms Square

In 1828, the square witnessed the inauguration of El Templete, a small neoclassic building that keeps three paintings by French artist Jean Baptiste Vermay, who painted the village's foundational ceremony and Havana's bishop, Juan José Díaz de Espada y Landa, as he blessed the city.

However, the most important building around the square is the Palace of the Captain Generals, built between 1776 and 1791 and considered the most beautiful work during the Spanish rule in Cuba.

The edifice has performed many different functions, ranging from a prison and the venue of Havana's government and City Hall to the City Museum over the past two decades.

The Museum's valuable collections are a unique attraction for visitors, especially the Hall of Flags, which shows the first Cuban flag, brought to the island by Narciso López, or the one hoisted by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the Father of the Homeland. The Museum also exhibits objects that belonged to patriots such as José Martí, Antonio Maceo and Máximo Gómez.

Another relevant building near the Arms Square is the Palace of the Second Corporal, which was the venue of the City Council and the Post Office House during Spanish colonial times, and which currently houses the Cuban Book Institute.

The former residence of the Counts of Santovenia, also close to the Arms Square, became the Santa Isabel Hotel, run by the company Habaguanex S.A.

The area's charm is complemented by institutions such as the Museum of Natural History, the House of Water and La Mina Restaurant, which form part of a blend that transports visitors to colonial times.

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