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In the 16th century, as Spanish galleons carried the gold and silver of the Indies back to Spain, pirates preyed on shipping and coastal settlements. In response, the Spanish built castles at the harbor entrances of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. These fortications did deter the pirates, but Havana's Castillo del Morro was unable to resist an English army in 1762. When the English left 11 months later, the Spanish built the massive Castillo de la Cabana on a hill the invaders had used to shell El Morro. Smaller forts were constructed at La Chorrera and Cojimar, on opposite sides of Havana, to guard against attacks from the rear.

A century later, the Spanish erected a network of smaller towers to stiffle the Cuban desire for independence. After fighting in Cardenas in 1850, a stone tower was built there, and the Ciego de Avila tower depicted below was part of a defensive chain intended to divide the island in two. Spain's Cuban castles survived the wars in independence intact, and most can now be visited.

All the photos on are by David Stanley, original author of Lonely Planet Cuba.
The images on this page are details. To view the complete photos, click on the thumbnails.

The 17th century Castillo del Morro
built to protect Havana from pirates
Cuba welcomes visitors. This Caribbean country offers a unique and very different travel experience.

Castillo de la Chorrera blocked attacks on Havana from the west.

A circular monument to Ernest Hemingway faces the Torreon de Cojimar.

Santiago's Castillo del Morro overlooks the harbor entrance.

Tower in Ciego de Avila remaining from a Spanish line of defense.

A 19th century Spanish tower in Cardenas near Varadero Beach.

Havana's Castillo del Morro was captured by the English in 1762.

The Castillo de la Cabana in Havana, built after the English left in 1763.

The Castillo de Jagua kept pirates out of Cienfuegos Bay.