Havana (Spanish: La Habana (help·info), Spanish pronunciation: [la aˈβana]), is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city is one of the 15 Cuban provinces. The city/province has 2.1 million inhabitants, the largest city in Cuba and (city proper population) in the Caribbean region. The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbours: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés. The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay.
Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592. The Spaniards began building fortifications, and in 1553 they transferred the governor's residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital. The importance of harbour fortifications was early recognized as English, French, and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.
Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Present day, the city is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries and headquarters of businesses are based there.