“La Habana 500: A New York Salute To A Timeless City”
November 12-15, 2019

La Havana at 500

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 (New York, NY) – Three City University of New York campuses —Hostos Community College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and The City College of New York— in collaboration with the School of Visual Arts have joined forces to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Havana.
Scheduled for November 12 through November 15, 2019 the program will consist of a series of seminars, walking tours, a film screening, and a concert.  “LA HABANA 500: A New York Salute to a Timeless City” explores the arc and trajectory of this city’s fascinating story, identifying and exploring points where Cuban and United States history intersect. 
The program will focus on four major themes: the founding and early history of La Habana; the rise of Cuban nationalism and the relationship between La Habana and New York City; the efforts to restore La Habana and establish a trajectory for future development; and the role of New York City, especially the Bronx, as an incubator of Cuban music.
“The role New York City has played in the history of the Caribbean cannot be understated, and our city remains a fundamental cornerstone of that ongoing shared story,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “It gives me great pride to know that CUNY is marking this milestone for the magnificent and resilient Havana. The programming of La Habana 500 is another example of CUNY’s vital role in our city’s rich cultural life.”
"Like New York City, Havana is a cultural epicenter, and it has finally received the renaissance it so deserves," said School of Visual Arts Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes. "SVA is proud to partner with CUNY on this exciting slate of programming for La Habana 500 that will no doubt introduce the city's fascinating history and promising future to the next generation."
LA HABANA 500 hosts prominent figures of academia like Alejandro de la Fuente, professor of Latin American history and economics at Harvard University, and author of “Havana and the Atlantic in the XVIth Century.” Jerry Carlson, chairperson and professor at the Department of Media Communication Arts, The City College, CUNY, and a specialist in narrative theory, global independent film and the cinemas of the Americas. At the CUNY Graduate Center he is a member of the doctoral faculties of French, Film Studies and Comparative Literature and a Senior Fellow at the Bildner Center for Western Hemispheric Studies. Lisandro Pérez, professor of Latin American and Latinx Studies at John Jay College, CUNY, and author of the acclaimed “Sugar, Cigars and Revolution: The Making of Cuban New York.” Nancy Raquel Mirabal, director of the U.S. Latina/o Studies Program at the University of Maryland and author of “Suspect Freedoms: The Racial and Sexual Politics of Cubanidad in New York, 1823-1957.” Marta Gutman, professor at the Spitzer School of Architecture of City College, CUNY, architect and architectural and urban historian. Dick Cluster, co-author with Rafael Hernández of “History of Havana." Folklorist Elena Martínez (City Lore, Bronx Music Heritage Center). Closing night, HAVANA JAM, features bassist/ violinist/ composer Yunior Terry, a member of one of Cuba’s most gifted musical families, directing an all-star salute to honor the 500th anniversary of the founding of La Habana and its musical heritage. Yunior leads his band, Son de Altura, featuring vocalist David Oquendo, with special guests, flutist extraordinaire Eddy Zervigon, the acclaimed song stylist Gema and piano virtuoso Adonis González.
Film Screening & Panel:
Suite Habana (2003)
Fernando Pérez, film director
Sonja E. Gandert, student, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Marta Gutman, professor, The City College, CUNY
Jerry Carlson, professor, The City College, CUNY
6 PM | Sciame Auditorium (room 107), Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, 141 Convent Avenue, Manhattan | The City College of New York
Panel Discussion:
The 500-Year Arc of La Habana’s History (Opening event)
Alejandro de la Fuente, professor, Harvard University
Dick Cluster, published author and translator
Hal Klepak, professor emeritus at the Royal Military College of Canada, panel moderator
4-6 PM | Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, 450 Grand Concourse, The Bronx |Hostos Community College
Opening Reception:  6 PM | Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos | Hostos Community College
Walking Tour:
The Bronx, Incubator of Cuban Music
Elena Martínez, guide
2-4 PM | Starts at the Hunts Point Station, #6 train, The Bronx, at the plaza above elevator
Panel Discussion:
The Restoration of La Habana: Accomplishments, Projections
Miguel Coyula, former executive, Group for Integrated Development of the Capital and university lecturer
Guadalupe García, associate professor, Tulane University
Belmont Freeman, Belmont Freeman Architects, adjunct professor, Columbia University
Herman Portocarero, former Belgian ambassador to Cuba and published author
Marta Gutman, professor, The City College, CUNY, panel moderator
6-8 PM | Sciame Auditorium (room 107), Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, 141 Convent Avenue, Manhattan |The City College of New York
Walking Tour:
Martí’s New York
Orlando J. Hernández and Elena Martínez, guides
11 AM-1 PM | West 4th Street Subway Station - Meet in front of IFC theater
Panel Discussion:
La Habana and New York City, an Enduring Relationship
Lisandro Pérez, professor, John Jay College, CUNY
Nancy Raquel Mirabal, professor, University of Maryland
Orlando J. Hernández, professor emeritus, Hostos Community College, CUNY
John Gutiérrez, assistant professor, John Jay College, CUNY, panel moderator
3-5 PM | 9th Floor Conference Room, New Building, 524 W 59th St., Manhattan | John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Reception:  5-6 PM | New Building | John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Yunior Terry & Son de Altura featuring David Oquendo with special guests Eddy Zervigon, Gema and Adolphus González
7:30 PM |Repertory Theater, Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture, 450 Grand Concourse, The Bronx
Reserved seating: $25 (Seniors $20, students $5)
Tickets: www.hostoscenter.org or Box Office 718-518-4455
To access the full program, click here and for more information and to register for the walking tours, call: 718-518-4410, or Email: Habana500@hostos.cuny.edu.
Founded on November 16, 1519—St. Christopher’s Day—La Habana became, in the course of a scant 70 years, the nexus of the first trans-oceanic empire in history. The architect of the new order, Phillip II of Spain, referred to La Habana as the “key” to his empire. Virtually all the riches which Spain extracted from the far reaches of its power—from Asia and almost the full length of the western hemisphere—were funneled through the port of La Habana, imposing upon the city a host of responsibilities as a safe harbor, provisioner, shipbuilding facility and foundry.
This made of La Habana a unique city with a population of transients like no other at that time. “…It was,” write historians Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández, “…a city where viceroys in transit rubbed shoulders with itinerant vendors, priests with prostitutes, Andalusian soldiers and sailors with Chinese traders and African slaves.” It was also a city that attracted some of the great intellects of the last half millennium, from Bartolomé de las Casas to Alexander von Humboldt to Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre, Julia de Burgos, Graham Greene and Gabriel García Márquez. It was a truly cosmopolitan city at once rough around the edges, baroque, romantic and beautiful.
For roughly the first half of its existence, the city of La Habana served as a maritime center serving the Spanish Empire. Then, in 1762, the city fell to a British expeditionary force in one of the culminating campaigns of the Seven Years War. While the British occupation lasted but eleven months, La Habana would emerge from that war profoundly changed with the lifting of restrictions on the African slave trade and its harbor flung open to foreign ships. In short order, most of the new trade was with a newly independent power to the north, the United States, ushering in a new era in Cuban history. No longer would La Habana be tethered economically and culturally to Sevilla or Cádiz; instead, it would look north to ports such as New Orleans, Mobile and especially New York City. The relationship with the latter would be complex and multi-faceted with profound commercial, political and cultural ramifications.