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The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbors: Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Atarés.
The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay.
Ships from all over the New World carried products first to Havana, in order to be taken by the fleet to Spain.
The thousands of ships gathered in the city's bay also fueled Havana's agriculture and manufacture, since they had to be supplied with food, water, and other products needed to traverse the ocean.
Pánfilo de Narváez gave Havana – the sixth town founded by the Spanish on Cuba – its name: San Cristóbal de la Habana.
During the 18th century Havana was the most important of the Spanish ports because it had facilities where ships could be refitted and, by 1740, it had become Spain's largest and most active shipyard and only drydock in the New World.However, an early map of Cuba drawn in 1514 places the town at the mouth of this river.Between 15 the Spanish established at least two different settlements on the north coast, one of them in La Chorrera, today in the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar, next to the Almendares River.On December 20, 1592, King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City.Later on, the city would be officially designated as "Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies" by the Spanish Crown.