City, capital, and province (pop., 2001 est.: 2,181,500) of Cuba. The city lies on the island's northern coast. The largest city in the Caribbean, it is Cuba's chief port, and it has one of the best harbours in the Western Hemisphere. It was founded by the Spanish in 1515 and moved to its present location in 1519. The de facto capital of Cuba by 1553, it was Spain's chief naval station in the New World. Its harbour was the scene of the destruction of the U.S. battleship Maine in 1898, the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War. Before 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power, Havana was a haven for U.S. tourists, offering gambling and showy nightlife. In addition to being Cuba's commercial and industrial centre, it contains many buildings of Spanish colonial style, including the 17th-century Cathedral of Havana, the Museum of the City of Havana, and Morro Castle. Old Havana and its fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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