Havana, Cuba marks 500th anniversary with fireworks and celebration

Fireworks lit up the sky over Havana
Fireworks lit up the sky over Havana Copyright REUTERS
By Associated Press
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Havana celebrated its 500th anniversary with a colourful and impressive fireworks display — and a historic state visit by Spain's King Felipe.


Havana has celebrated its 500th anniversary with a bang, staging a colourful and impressive fireworks display that wowed thousands of residents and tourists gathered along the seaside Malecon boulevard.

Fireworks boomed over the Morro Castle, which has guarded Havana Bay since the early 1700's, while on the other side of the water locals cheered and clapped at Friday night's bright display.

The anniversary comes as the country confronts an increasingly tense relationship with the US, and is mired in economic doldrums that has caused hardship amongst many citizens who struggle to make ends meet.

But residents put worries aside during the festivities, enjoying the historic occasion marking five centuries of the founding of Havana, an achievement many appreciated and hope will be the start of better times to come.

Hundreds of locals gathered earlier in the evening at La Templete, the grounds where the city tree La Ceiba is located, considered a symbol of Havana's longevity and well-being.

They circled the tree while touching its trunk, believed by locals to bring good luck in the coming year. It was a shared moment for local residents, representing their collective hopes for a better future.

"Well, it's the 500th anniversary of Havana, and it's also my birthday, so I am really happy to be a Habanero on a day like today, very proud," said Sheila Ravelo, 26, a local resident.

Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visit the San Pedro de la Roca del Morro fortress in Santiago, CubaREUTERS

The milestone event which has sparked reflection and anticipation in the country, as it faces an increasingly hostile US Administration and serious economic challenges.

After nearly four centuries of Spanish rule, and over 50 years of US-backed governments, then 60 years of Socialist rule, the city has been in the forefront of history.

Now, residents say they are looking forward to celebrating the anniversary, with the belief things can only get better, even in the midst of economic hardship and tense relations with the American Government.

Before the fireworks, the city hosted a visit by Spain's King Felipe who met Communist Party leader Raul Castro before returning to Europe. It was the first state visit by a Spanish monarch.

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