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University of Havana

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Subject: Education in Cuba, Havana, Napoleon Museum (Havana), Richard Levins, Fidel Castro
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University of Havana

University of Havana
Universidad de La Habana
University of Havana in 1930
Established 1728
Type Public
Rector Gustavo Cobreiro Suárez, Ph.D
Academic staff over 300
Students 60,000
Location Havana, Cuba

The University of Havana or UH (in Spanish, Universidad de La Habana) is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas. Originally a religious institution, today the University of Havana has 15 faculties (colleges) at its Havana campus and distance learning centers throughout Cuba.


Faculty of Math and Computer Science
Aula Magna
Statue of Alma Mater at on the main steps of the university.

It was first called "Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Gerónimo de la Habana" (in English Royal and Pontifical University of Saint Jerome of Havana). During those times, universities needed a royal or papal authorization in order to be created and thus the names Real y Pontificia. The two men who gave that authorization to the university were Pope Innocent XIII and King Philip V of Spain.

In 1842, the university changed its status to become a secular, royal and literary institution. Its name became Real y Literaria Universidad de La Habana (in English, Royal and Literary University of Havana) and later, when Cuba was a free republic, the name was changed to Universidad Nacional (in English, National University).

The university had first been established in San Juan de Letrán (located in Villa de San Cristóbal in Old Havana) before it was transferred on May 1, 1902 to a hill in the Vedado area of Havana. The interiors of the building were decorated by Armando Menocal y Menocal. The seven frescos represent Medicine, Science, Art, Thought, Liberal Arts, Literature, and Law. At the main university entrance (shown above) there is a bronze statue of Alma Mater (meaning the "Nourishing mother" in Latin) that was created in 1919 by artist Mario Korbel. The model for the statue's face was lovely 16-year-old Feliciana "Chana" Villalón, the daughter of José Ramón Villalón y Sánchez, a professor of analytical mathematics at the University. Chana later married Juan Manuel Menocal (a distant relative of Armando Menocal), who went on to become the Dean of the Business School. Juan Manuel Menocal was a professor at the law school when Fidel Castro was a student there in the 1940s. Maria Rosa Menocal, former Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, was the granddaughter of Chana and Juan Manuel Menocal. (See Alma Mater Witness of Time by Eduardo Heras León).

The main library "Rubén Martínez Villena" was established later in 1936.

After the government was taken over by Fulgencio Batista in 1952, the University became a center of anti-government protests. Batista closed the University in 1956. From January 1, 1959, the date on which Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, until January 1, 1962, the University went through a period of reformation, to eliminate anti-revolutionary ideas, and by which to assure that the faculty and students would be thoroughly indoctrinated in the new ideology.[1]


The University of Havana is made up of 16 faculties (Spanish: facultades) and 14 research centers in different fields like economics, sciences, social science and humanities. In total, up to twenty five specialties are taught at the university. Now, it has about 6000 degree students in regular classes.

There are 16 faculties into which the university is divided:

Student organizations

Before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, students joined different organisations, aligning themselves directly or indirectly with some political party. The strongest of all these organisations was the FEU (Federación Estudiantíl Universitaria or University students federation) created by, Gerardo Machado. The FEU innovated the national general strike of 1933, resulting in the imprisonment of many of its members. Founder Julio Antonio Mella, himself had been killed at the hands of two assassins sent by Machado while exiled in Mexico in 1929

After the coup d'état by Moncada barracks by Fidel Castro, an attorney who graduated from Havana University School of Law, and who had contacts in the FEU, the FEU became an ally of Castro's new July 26th Movement, though there were discrepancies between the leaders in the form that the forthcoming revolution should be carried out. While Fidel Castro was hiding in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the FEU, led by Jose Antonio Echeverria, attempted to kill Fulgencio Batista in an armed assault at the Cuban Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957. Batista managed to escape, and many student assaultants died in the action, as did Echeverria himself. During the months that followed, the police executed many of the students that led the failed coup. President Batista ordered the university to be closed, and it remained so until Batista fled the country and Fidel Castro entered Havana in January 1959.

The Castro regime re-opened the university in 1959 and put an end to student demonstrations and political affiliations. By 1961, particularly after the Bay of Pigs invasion, public student gatherings were forbidden unless they were government sponsored. As per the information in the university's website, the student body was "purified" of all opposition to Fidel Castro.

See also


  1. ^ Historia de la UH
  2. ^ (Spanish)

External links

  • University of Habana Website (Spanish)
  • Red Latinoamericana de Química
  • Universidad de La Habana

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