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Havana celebrates 500th birthday

International 22 Nov, 2019 Follow News

Havana celebrates 500th birthday

Cubans celebrated Havana's 500th anniversary on Sunday.

Thousands of people in Cuba's capital stood in line to kiss, touch or walk around a towering silk floss tree in a nod to tradition as they celebrated Havana's 500th anniversary.

The celebration comes as Cuba deals with an ailing economy and increasingly tense relations with the US. But these concerns were briefly cast aside as residents prepared for a gala event last night featuring fireworks, music and international dignitaries.

As part of the celebrations, officials restored monuments, painted buildings, unveiled exhibitions and held book presentations.

"Havana grows, lives, sings, dances and dreams," said Felix Julio Alfonso, a professor who spoke before granting the public access to the revered silk floss tree.

Many in the crowd shared their wishes with the tree, including requests for health or financial wellbeing. Some left money and others wore white as dictated by Afro-Cuban Santeria, the island's predominant religion.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel greeted special guests around midday in Havana, which Spanish conquerors founded on November 16, 1519.

"Havana, a city of science, dance, cinema, literature, sporting events and an example of resistance in the face of neoliberalism, is also the city of dignity, the bastion of resistance against the unjust US blockade," Díaz-Canel said.

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