HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 18.- The oldest part of Havana loses its usual calm. Flocks of people come in groups making a lot of noise; others come alone in a quiet pensive mood. Everyone gets in line. Havana is celebrating its 489th birthday and besides a diverse cultural program, the celebration includes a ritual that dates back as far as the cobblestone streets.
Alongside El Templete (a neo-classical monument erected in 1828) stands a beautiful and thick ceiba tree in the place where on November 16, 1519 the Villa de San Cristobal was founded. The tree was highly revered by the natives who attributed it with magical-religious powers. People say that both the first religious ceremony and first town council meeting took place under its shade.
The custom has Havana residents going around the tree three times in silence, touching it, hugging and kissing it. On each turn they let coins fall, some to have their wishes come true, others to express gratitude for a miracle that already happened. Each person in line has faith that their desire will be satisfied. Each coin is a yearning and each November the hope of a country centers on this special place.