Thursday, April 13, 2017
Explosive tradition continues nightly in Havana

Looming large at the entrance to Havana harbor is the lighthouse and fortifications of Morro Castle. Technically, the official name is “El Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro.” Designed by Italian Juan Bautista Antonelli, it’s named for the three Magi written about in the Bible. Built between 1590-1630, the complex is similar to fortresses in Santiago de Cuba and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Today, the fort is a museum, but more importantly for this photojournalist, it’s a killer vantage point for early morning images of Old Havana.

After a little research (read, a few Google searches), we learn that “Morro” means a rounded hill or promontory, which is a point of high land that juts out into a large body of water. Simple enough, it makes sense to me.

Another little nugget of knowledge, which, by the way, flies in the face of what I’ve been (erroneously) telling people for many years, is that each night at 9 p.m., actors in period dress, perform the detonation of a huge cannon (sans cannon ball). That part is true, and depending on wind direction and where you are in the city, you can hear this large explosion throughout the capital city.

Years and years ago, somebody told me the ceremony was a tradition signaling of the closing of the harbor. How can you close a harbor? Well, believe it or not, there really was a giant chain used to fence off the harbor from “bad dudes” arriving by sea. So, when necessary, the chain was pulled tight between the walls of the castle and the seawall on the other side. 

Anyway, I just learned, via the good ol’ internet, the 9 p.m. explosion was actually a signal that the city gates were closing to keep the terrestrial “bad dudes” out. 

Ain’t learnin’ great?

By the way, should you decide to attend, get there early, as the tourists flock to the fort every night like flies on, well, just get there early.