Havana and La Paz are part of the New 7 Wonders Cities
Havana and La Paz are part of the New 7 Wonders Cities
Havana is among the New7Wonders Cities, which is a global campaign by Swiss foundation New 7 Wonders of the World dedicated to recognize the most outstanding places around the globe.
Swiss filmmaker, explorer and millionaire Bernard Weber founded the organization in 2000. They selected the seven most outstanding monuments and natural places in 2007 and 2011 respectively, casting millions of votes according to their official website.
In this case, they preselected 28 cities last October, cutting down to 21 and 14 through elimination stages. The seven finalists were announced in Dubai on December 7 after casting online votes from all around the world.
“We began with more than 1200 nominees from 220 different countries and here we have the seven cities that represent the global diversity of urban society,” said Weber.
The results may have some people scratching their heads wondering how Havana compares to the science fiction skyline of Doha, Qatar or the never-ending Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur.
Explaining the magnificence of Havana is not an easy task. But, let’s try to showcase the seven wonders of this wonder city.
First, Havana has a privileged geographical location. Barely touched by the Tropic of Cancer, Havana seems to live an eternal summer. It is located on Northwestern Cuba right at the mouth of the Golf of Mexico. It was the key of the golf and New World for maritime commerce during colonial times. Many ships loaded with goods had to stop there. That’s why it had such a vertiginous growth and was disputed by the British and Spanish crowns.
Second, Its bay is breathtaking. The city settles around one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The Bay of Havana has an extremely narrow passage entrance that widens into a big sac-like bay, surrounded in all directions by the city with spectacular Spanish fortifications and a big Christ statue on top of the hills at the eastern edge. If you sit by the bay, you enjoy a constant parade of ships navigating in and out the harbors through its thin corridor.
Third, it has castles. Havana is the most fortified city of the Americas due to recurrent pirates and corsairs attacks centuries ago. It has nine major Spanish castles –most of them around the bay- and other smaller fortresses. El Castillo del Morro is perhaps the most iconic of all. The Morro-Cabañas Complex was the most expensive building project of the Spanish Empire in the New World.
Fourth, its building architecture is remarkable with an impressive diversity. Havana could be nicknamed the City of the Columns due to the ubiquitous neoclassical architecture. However, Moorish and Baroque architectures are also everywhere while Art Deco proliferated in later development areas. Havana has the biggest historical district of Latin America proclaimed World Heritage Centre by UNESCO in 1982.
Fifth, Havana’s urbanism is timeless. Despite the puzzling topography plagued with hills, the almost 500-year-old city manages to comply with Roman square urbanization. The square urbanism is currently considered the model for the cities of the XXI century, where all the life-sustaining places such as workplaces, hospitals, entertainment centers, and the like have walkability, like in Havana.
World-class architect Nicolas Quintana once said, “We are Moorish in the architecture and Roman in the urbanism. Havana meets all the urban requirements of the cities of the future.”
Sixth, It has one of the most beautiful seawalls in the world. With the skyline behind, El Malecon de la Habana extends for more than 6 miles of spectacular view. It has endured the ferocious waters of the Strait of Florida and has given millions the idyllic place to fall in love for more than a century.
Seventh, awesome beaches escort the city. Havana has rocky beaches west to the bay and seawall while crystalline waters white-sanded beaches form the eastern shoreline.
This old lady defeats total negligence by the regime of the last fifty plus years. Just like wine, it gets better with time. The more wrinkles and scars it gets the more intricately its beauty shines.
Cubans have already rebuilt this miraculous city twice in the past: after the British occupation in 1762 and after the re-concentration of Weyler in 1896. So, a third rebirth of this Phoenix is totally possible in the future. Quintana, who designed important skyscrapers in New York and elsewhere and was a Florida International University architecture professor, left complete projects of the reconstruction of Havana before he died in 2011.
Every well-traveled person I meet who has been there seems in love with or bewitched by Havana. It doesn’t matter if they have seen the Eifel Tower, The London Eye and The Chinese wall. Most of them have or want to come back to taste the city’s inexplicable magic.
That’s probably what drove voters from all over the world to include this mystical city in the seven wonders.
Also from South America and with another astonishing geographical position is new wonder city La Paz. Bolivia’s capital has the highest altitude for a country capital in the world.
A panoramic aerial view of the Bolivian capital city of La Paz, on March 26, 2005 in La Paz, Bolivia. Set high in the Andes at an elevation of more than 3,600 meters above sea level, La Paz is the world’s highest capital city. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
The Spaniards founded the city in 1548. They originally settled in the Artiplano surrounded by the majestic peaks of Los Andes and expanded over the centuries in all directions into the mountains, taking the spectacular shape of a skateboarding bowl. So, the center is at 10,500 feet high while the periphery ascends up to 13,500.
La Paz architecture is incredibly colorful mixing colonial Spanish building with modern colorful high-rises that are surpassed by the intense red bricks settlements that hike into the hills. New 7 Wonders of the World is a not-for-profit organization but it is financed by private funds. They partnered with the United Nations for the Millennium Development Goals project.