Havana prepares to celebrate 498th anniversary

Cuban capital to mark anniversary on Thursday

HAVANA, Cuba – There was a lot of hustle and bustle in Havana this week as city leaders prepared for a very important celebration.

Havana is marking its 498th year of existence on Thursday.

Workers at the Plaza de Armas were making last-minute fixes Tuesday at a very important and historical building in Old Havana.

Part of this year's celebration is the renovation of El Templete, a Greco-Roman building that has not been touched since 1928. 

It was built 100 years prior, in 1828. 

City historian Eusebio Leal said a column along with a Ceiba tree have remained a constant in the Spanish city throughout several centuries, dating back to the first city government, which would later become Cuba's capital city. 

"Generation after generation have planted the same tree. Because the Ceiba is so close to sea, eventually the underground salt water kills it," Leal said. 

The city's historian said a lost portico has been redone. 

It was demolished in 1929 to expand Port Avenue. If you walk in front of it, you'll see the city's original coat of arms.  

But in many spots, Havana remains a city in ruins after decades of neglect, and the recent hurricane made things worse. 

Leal admits the Malecon is in rough shape and said the people should not be surprised if more buildings are demolished. 

"Havana remains one the oldest capital cities in the American continent," Leal said. 

The celebration continues Wednesday with a vigil. The official anniversary is Thursday, when Havana will celebrate its patron saint,  San Cristóbal. 

Havana's original name was San Cristóbal de la Havana. 

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