University of Havana

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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.
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). At 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. The writer Maria Rosa Menocal, currently Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, is 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. It opened again in 1959 upon the success of the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
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