The seaside town of Regla

The seaside town of Regla

Heritage & Traditions

By Ana Maria Silveira

On the margins of the bay of Havana, and facing the historic center of the city, across the bay, is the town of Regla, a territory with symbols of significance for the capital, a lot of history and traditions.

The founding of the picturesque seaside town has its origins in the seventeenth century, in lands that the aborigines called Guaicanamar, with the meaning, precisely, of “facing the sea”.

Around a hermitage built in homage to the Virgin of Regla, the town began to expand, on a date that historians fix on March 3, 1687. The church is today the main worship temple in the country of that saint, a symbol that in syncretism with the beliefs of slaves brought from Africa became Yemayá, goddess of the seas and motherhood, which attracts, year after year, numerous pilgrims.

Among those who pay tribute to the Virgin of Regla is Mother Therese of Calcutta, Nobel Peace Prize winner and consecrated a saint of the Catholic Church, who visited the place in 1986, on the occasion of two brief but intense stays in Cuba.  

You can get to Regla by bus or car from Havana, the longest and least interesting way, but also by sea, through the historic “small boat of Regla”. This means of transport, which distinguishes the capital city, has its precedent in the 19th century, when inhabitants surrounding the bay preferred to cut their way across the sea, in sailboats. Today's motorboats make several crossings a day, between the Dock of Luz, in the Havana port area ​​, and the Regla dock, in trips of about ten minutes that allow enjoying privileged views of the surrounding bay.

The town also has a tradition of good dancers, which since 1959 has been expressed in the troupe Los Guaracheros de Regla, an icon of Cuban carnivals, winner of numerous recognitions in the country, and in others such as Spain and Mexico. The Municipal Museum, a neoclassical building from the 19th century has important ethnographic collections, particularly on Afro-Cuban cults; painting and engraving, and origins of the Virgin sanctuary; the Fort of San Diego and the San Antonio arsenal, of the 18th century, are also among the sites of interest in this unique and attractive town.