Teaching Students About Havana, Cuba


Havana, the vibrant capital city of Cuba, is a treasure trove of history, culture, and architectural splendors. Educating students about Havana not only provides them with valuable insights into Cuban history and society, but it also offers a unique opportunity to understand the rich cultural diversity that defines Latin America. This article seeks to offer guidance on teaching students about Havana by focusing on its historical significance, cultural uniqueness, and current socio-political scenarios.

Historical Background

Begin your lesson by introducing students to the foundation of Havana in 1519 by Spanish settlers. Emphasize its strategic importance as a primary trading port in colonial times, which made it an attractive target for privateers and foreign invaders. Key historical events worth mentioning include:

1. Capture by British forces in 1762 and subsequent return to Spain under the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

2. The influence of African cultures brought to Cuba through the Atlantic slave trade.

3. The Cuban Revolution in 1959 led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

4. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, impacting Cuba’s economic and political landscape.

Cultural Highlights

Next, engage your students in exploring Havana’s rich cultural tapestry. Encourage them to learn about famous writers, musicians, artists, and dancers that have contributed to Havana’s fame as a cultural hub. Some areas to consider discussing are:

1. Literature: Highlight authors like Alejo Carpentier and Reinaldo Arenas who have penned iconic tales set against the backdrop of Havana.

2. Music: Explore genres such as Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, rumba, and son Cubano that embody the heart and soul of Havana’s streets.

3. Visual arts: Introduce students to renowned Cuban artists such as Wifredo Lam and Amelia Peláez, whose works reflect a vivid fusion of cultural influences.

4. Dance: Delve into the world of Cuban dance forms like ballet, modern, and folkloric, as well as the lesser-known but equally captivating casino or Cuban salsa.

Socio-Political Overview

To develop a comprehensive understanding of Havana, it’s crucial for students to analyze its current socio-political context. Discuss the role that political ideologies like socialism and communism have played in shaping Cuba’s collective identity, and their implications on Havana’s present-day society. Key points to consider are:

1. The ongoing US-Cuba relationship and its effects on the economy and politics in Havana.

2. Inequalities that exist within Cuban society due to factors such as race, gender, and income.

3. The impact of Cuba’s dual-currency system (CUP – Cuban Pesos and CUC – Cuban Convertible Pesos) on Havana’s residents.

4. Havana’s transportation infrastructure and challenges faced by commuters.


Teaching students about Havana requires a multifaceted approach that melds history, culture, and socio-political complexities into a cohesive narrative. By exploring landmark events, unique artistic expressions, and current dynamics shaping the city’s identity, students will gain a well-rounded understanding of this enchanting capital city. The knowledge acquired will not only contribute to their intellectual growth but also encourage them to develop an appreciation for the rich diversity that exists across different cultures worldwide.

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