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Santiago de Cuba Travel Information

Music in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is Cuba's second largest settlement and capital of the namesake province. It is known as the island's most exotic city as a result of the intermingling of the different ethnic groups that have settled in the area in the course of its existence, endowing it with a special character that has made it into Cuba's most Caribbean City.

Santiago de Cuba lies on the country's south-eastern sector, surrounded by high mountains and owner of a bay connected to the Caribbean which has favored trade through its port for almost five centuries.

Santiago de Cuba also offers refreshing beaches that harbor a great deal of exotic flora and amazing marine species. The scenery is masterfully complemented by the neighboring massive Sierra Maestra. The city's narrow and steep streets, crowned by flowery balconies, are full of music and history.    

At the same time, this is a throbbing and energetic spot, birthplace to a host of contemporary musicians and artists of national and international caliber. Santiago de Cuba was one of the first seven villages founded by Diego Velásquez, who built his own residence here that still remains as one of the island's oldest examples of architecture. Today, despite being the second in rank, it is the favorite place for several visitors that have discovered its contagious rhythms and provincial flair.

Santiago de Cuba has played a vital role along Cuba's history, no wonder it has been nicknamed 'Cradle of the Revolution'. The country's first slave uprising took place here in Santiago de Cuba; many of the prominent generals were locals and its importance in the revolutionary war of the 50s made it into the 'Revolution?s Heroic City' as Fidel Castro himself once proclaimed

Santiago de Cuba hosts the Cuba's best Carnival every July. It goes on for several days and the festive mood of the locals never wavers. Processions called 'Congas' consist of throngs of people parade along singing improvised chants to the tunes of musical instruments. There is also a parade of big colorful figures that represent popular characters of children literature.

The Old Town lies east of the bay whose core is the area occupied by Céspedes Park, an interesting and historical square surrounded by old attractive buildings and ornamented by tall trees and ancient gas lamps. Here is Diego Velásquez Residence, the Town Hall, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the city's oldest and elegant hotel: Casa Granda.

A great deal of historical buildings, museums and crafts stalls, line Heredia Street which traverses the lower end of Céspedes Park. Further east, there is Plaza Dolores, a vibrant small square embraced by bars, cafés and restaurants. Plaza de Marte stands as a border line in between the old town and the modern section.

One of Santiago's peculiarities is that its inhabitants refer to the streets either using the old or new name, which may create some confusion.

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Santiago de Cuba sunset

Main Sights

The Town Hall or Municipal Palace

Built in 1515, it is located on the square's northern end. It suffered the effects of an earthquake in 1950 and was subsequently renovated. A nice-looking white colonial building, with wooden balconies and lovely patio, it was the venue for Fidel Castro's announcement of the Revolution Triumph after his army finally captured the city.

 

Diego Velásquez House

Diego Velasquez's former residence, Spanish conquistador and founder of Cuba's first seven settlements. The mansion has stoically stood the test of time and hosts the Cuban Colonial Ambiance Museum that shows an array of objects inherent to those days: French, English, Spanish and Cuban items of furniture and clothing that tell of a wealthy and glamorous epoch.

 

Our Lady of Asunción Cathedral

Rises on the park?s upper end. Finally rebuilt in the 19th century after being the target of pirates and earthquakes in more than one occasion, it is painted in white and yellow and ornamented by twin bell towers and a marble statue of an angel. The Cathedral interior preserves beautifully restored frescoes frescos and its original organ, worth of a look. The crypt still holds Diego Velásquez remains.

 

El Morro Castle

An imposing medieval-styled fortress, built on a rocky outcrop at the entrance to the bay and still lays there as its secular protector. El Morro Castle was finished in 1638 largely to defend the city and bay from pirates? attacks. Its historical value has earned it the status of UNESCO's World Heritage. The castle consists of jails, rooms and passages distributed in 5 levels. It now hosts a small museum about the history of piracy. A ceremony takes place here every evening by sunset. Army youngsters soot one of the old cannons while energetically shouting, Long Live Free Cuba!

 

The Moncada Barracks / July 26th History Museum

A former military barracks, first Spanish and later for the rural police, it had a prominent role in the history of the Cuban Revolution. On July 26, 1953, 135 youngsters led by Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Abel Santamaría attempted to capture the barracks during the Santiago's Carnival. The action though largely unsuccessful paved the way for the final struggle that ended in 1959 with the revolutionary victory. The museum shows the weaponry used by the revolutionaries during the attack, the blood-stained uniforms of the casualties, letters, photos and other elements related to the rebels and the struggle in those days.

 

Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum

A museum founded by Emilio Bacardi, writer and builder of the famous rum empire Bacardi, a tribute to his personal collection. The building itself is a grand neoclassical construction from 1928 which exhibits objects from Cuba?s aboriginal past, the independence wars  or related to national heroes. On the second floor, there is an art gallery with painting by national and international artists. An Egyptian mummy, some Peruvian ones and a stuffed human head from the Amazon complete the exhibit.

 

El Tivolí Neighborhood

Is no doubts another local attraction. Located south of the main square is exudes a special charm. It used to be the city's exclusive neighborhood of French settlers that still preserves its picturesque wooden houses.

 

Padre Pico Street

Constitutes another city icon, made of a huge staircase that marks the border in between Santiago de Cuba's lower and higher sections. It was named like this in honor of a priest that devoted himself to help the poor.

Villa of the Bacardi Family in Santiago de Cuba
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