In the area near Plaza Vieja, east of Avenida de Belgica (Egido) between the streets of Teniente Rey and Merced, you will find the neighborhood of Belen, which was the great religious center of colonial Havana, full of churches and convents. The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed a wave of ecclesiastical construction, as the bishops brought its influence to perpetuate it in statues and stones. The most notable of those bishops was Diego Evangelino de Compostela, who arrived from Spain in 1867, and very shortly begun the construction of the Convento de Belen, the Convento de Santa Clara de Asís and Iglesia Santa Teresa de Jesus in today’s Barrio Belen, and the Iglesia of Santo Angel Custodio, among other ecclesiastical buildings in other areas of Old Havana.
The area was also the site where the first community of Sephardic Jews settled in Cuba after they were expelled from Castile and Aragon in 1492. This fact was the genesis of the establishment of a large Jewish community in the country. By the 20th century, Polish and Lithuanian Jews settled here after fleeing nazi persecution. As part of a reconstruction project of the Jewish settlement, the Cuban government has begun by rehabilitating the local synagogue located on Calle Acosta.