Caribbean Snapshots: Morro Castle, Cuba

An island landmark with a colorful history


Its full name is Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, but most Cubans know it simply as El Morro. This stone fortress has guarded the entrance to Havana harbor for more than four centuries, protecting the city from pirates and British raiders. To keep ships from entering the harbor, a huge iron chain would be stretched from the fortress to the opposite side of the inlet. The Castillo’s iconic stone lighthouse was added in the mid 19th century, and the Colonial-era cannons were decommissioned but not removed.

The grounds later became a training facility for lighthouse keepers, and is now the home of the city’s port authority offices. The tower is still lit each night as a navigational beacon. It has become one of Havana’s most enduring landmarks, and a must-see destination on a tour of the city’s historic waterfront. Visit at sunset and you may hear the single cannon shot fired from the Castillo to signal the end of the day.