Fat cigars, big cars, dirty money, vibrant music, intellectual ferment. Havana, since its creation in 1535, has long offered a unique, bewildering mix of the backward and the hip, the seedy and the sophisticated. In many respects, it shares the characteristics of other colonial or post-colonial cities of the Caribbean and Latin America. But at the same time, Havana created its own niche both as an international city and a dynamic national capital. Despite Cuba's fluctuating fortunes, Havana has always managed to thrive and develop its own unique character as an urban, social, economic, cultural and political site. Havana offers a sweeping account of the city and its cultural development, focusing especially on the last two centuries and on the role played by the city's cultural communities in the search for national identity. The author introduces us to a marginal city with roots in the sixteenth century, taking us through the periods when it was a sugar boomtown, pulled between empires, a decadent metropolis, a site of both cultural revolution and relative stagnation during the development of the Revolution to its revival in the 1990s. He looks at the often creative tensions between external influences (especially Spain, France and the United States) and indigenous cultural pressures. Areas covered include architecture, literature, music, dance, cinema and the press. Cosmopolitan playground and nationalist vanguard, Havana has developed its own style while at the same time both reflecting and directing the complicated politics of the whole of Cuba. This book offers a concise introduction to one of the most intriguing cities of the twenty-first century.