From Havana, Cuba, the Habanera is an admixture of African, Spanish, and Cuban rhythms. It was originally known as the Contradanza with African influences. Only outside of Cuba was it called Habanera. In New Orleans, this dance was called Creole Country Dance. The Habanera would join the Milonga dance, becoming the Tango.
The voyage of the Habanera began in Cuba, crossed the Atlantic to Spain, then back to Argentina, finally making it to France. The Habanera arose and made its trek throughout the early 19^th century; although, the Habanera's roots may be much older as a folk dance. Argentina was at that time was a melting pot of different ethnicities, and, by 1816, the Waltz, Polka, Mazurka, Schottische, as well as the Habanera, were regular sights on the stages, in ballrooms, and on the streets.
In Mexico, the Habanera was simply called the Danza. And when the Contradanza came to Cuba, it was called the Contradanza Habanera. Probably what shot the Habanera into popular consciousness was Georges Bizet's famous opera, Carmen (1875), which incorporated the Habanera.
A choreographer by the name of Maurice Movet created a dance he called the Habanera in 1912. He also created the Maurice Walk. His walk resembled the Tango, Maxixe, and One-Step. And his Habanera was similar to the Tango-walk we know today.
The parent of the Habanera was the Quajira, a descendent of Spanish folk music played by Cuban musicians. Instruments then used were guitars, lauds, and then later added maracas and shakers. One of the first anonymous songs, "La Piementa," would introduce the Habanera rhythm. The Habanera typically is in short, repeating 2/4 rhythmic figures in the bass line.
One quirk in the history of the Habanera is that it was more popular outside of Cuba than in Cuba. And it would have widespread influence. Everything from Ragtime, Blues, Jazz, Western Swing, Rockabilly, to Rock and Roll, would be touched by Habanera.
Eventually, since it was known as Contradanza Habanera, it would be shortened to Danzon. Other Cuban dances would overshadow Danzon, such as the Rumba, Bolero, Merengue, Mambo, among others. The Habanera, however, holds a unique position and influence in the history and art of dance.