Since 1774, when Havana’s San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress was finished, the 9:00 p.m. Cannon Shot Ceremony has been one of the capital’s most jealousy kept traditions. In the colonial times, it symbolized the closure of the city gates and the lifting of the chain that used to close the entrance to the harbour, besides being crucial for organizing inhabitants’ social life.
Since hours earlier, a craftwork fair takes the fortress’ streets, while there are carriages and guides to scour the castle. You can admire the colonial architecture in the emplacements, chapels, bridges, barracks, and cellars, the cannons, the paving stones, the lighthouse, the Che Guevara’s headquarters and the most exquisite views from Havana, especially at sunset, with the whole coastline, the fishermen, the boats and the city getting enlightened.
Around 8:30 p.m. you’ll start listening a drum’s roll while young soldiers, dressing as Spanish colonial guards, with white wigs, three prick hats, martial uniforms, long Moorish muskets and bayonets, march all along the streets, giving military voices, up to the Battery of Ceremony, where the cannon stands. As time goes by, all fortress lights, except torches, disappear at once, while drums start getting faster and harder just until nine o’clock, when the cannon, suddenly and in a rush, is shot into the virgin night.
The Cannon Shot Ceremony, more than a centuries’ tradition, is the Havana’s night awakening. Carry a camera with you and don’t let that moment to fade away.
© Javier Roque Martínez