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The History of Havana

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Original Language: English (US) | 320 pp. | January 2018

2 Seas Represents: French, Dutch, and Nordic Rights.

HISTORY | TRAVEL

Illustrated with black-and-white photographs and maps.

“One of the few books in English to cover the history of the Cuban capital specifically, [The History of Havana] provides a history of Cuba too. This engaging, people-centered account takes a social and cultural perspective as much as an economic and political one and is peppered with lively personal testimonies helping to make the facts of the past more pertinent and more real.” —Rough Guide to Cuba

“Gorgeous, feisty, savvy, cosmopolitan, sexy, defiant and yes, at times decadent and decaying, yet always resilient and ribald, battered repeatedly but never beaten—the city of Havana, where everyone deserves to have been born, is the star of this loving, gritty history. The authors lead the reader from Columbus’ stumbling into Cuba in his quest for the Orient in the fifteenth century to our own decade. They tell the story of Havana’s people, their physical space, their welcoming and unwelcome encounters with foreigners, and their capacity for re-invention. It’s a great read.” —Jorge I. Domínguez, Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

“This beautifully written, reliably informative, and extremely sensitive account provides a delightful examination across time of the extraordinary human dimensions of an extraordinary people.” —Franklin Knight, Johns Hopkins University, Choice

“In fine prose, with academic rigor, clarity that shows respect for the reader, and a good dose of lyricism, the co-authors serve us up the trajectory of the Cuban capital.” —Diario Las Américas, Miami

“A rich and readable social and cultural history, which incorporates popular culture–film and radio, dance music and popular religion–to weave a historical tapestry as beguiling as a Havana night.” ―History Book Club

“This colorful work explains the singular allure of Havana . . . What makes it compelling is how effectively Cluster and Hernandez convey the personality of the city.” ―Chicago Sun-Times

For close to 500 years, Havana has been a cultural crossroads, a meeting point for people from the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Here, in a revised and updated edition of a classic history co-written by a Cuban and an American, is the definitive chronicle of the “Rome of the Caribbean.”

“The name of the city,” write the authors, “La Habana or La Havana, comes from Spanish transcriptions of an indigenous word. But in ensuing years many came to believe that the name derived from haven and harbor, which the city has always been in both a physical and a social sense.”

Since its founding in 1519, Havana has drawn people from all over the world, including explorers, entrepreneurs, refugees, and the exiled, to create a melting pot of influences and cultures with a very distinct history.

Authors Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández examine not only the ruptures in the city’s life, but its continuities as well. The traditions that make the city unique, such as its idiosyncratic combination of territorialism and hospitality, or its proclivity for protest, reveal a drive for change as an integral element of its character.

Drawing on oral histories and cultural artefacts with grace and precision, The History of Havana chronicles the city’s dynamic culture and politics, making it a superbly well-rounded account of the most intriguing city in the Caribbean.