This is a military fortress located at the entrance to the Bay of Santiago de Cuba. It was constructed by the Spanish to defend against piracy, and it is now a World Heritage Site, and home to the museum of piracy.
Founded in 1515 and, because of its geographical situation, the capital of Cuba until 1556. To this bay came the first black slaves to Cuba and with them an essential component of the Cuban nationality with its strong African and Spanish roots. Santiago de Cuba lives with the sea and mountains, limited by the huge bay and on land by the Sierra Maestra. This provides its hot and humid climate. The old town is characterized by steep streets leading down to the bay (and up, which is worse). The newest area has beautiful buildings, Baroque headquarters and consulates. Walking around Santiago can be a little cramped, people come up to you to take you to different sites. There's fairly continuous harassment. Perhaps its best to accept a "guide". If you're driving around with him, others leave you alone.
This Cathedral is located in a corner of Parque Céspede. It was modeled after many other cities planned by the Spanish, in the same central square was the seat of government (in this case the House Diego Velázquez) and the headquarters of the Church, the Cathedral of the city. In the case of Santiago, and because of a long succession of earthquakes and pirate attacks, the cathedral you can admire today is the fourth that stands in the city, a beautiful nineteenth century building. The views of the cathedral from the terrace of the Hotel Casa Granda are simply fantastic.
La Casa de la Trova is a popular local Latin dance club. In the afternoon and evening there are performances by musicians, playing classic boleros and other rhythms. It is a great place to enjoy some evening entertainment. It is open every day and the price includes a mojito.
This central cemetery has very artistic mausoleums and sculptures. It is an open cemetery, and serves as a thoroughfare for residents of Santiago. Here you'll find the mausoleum of Jose Marti, national hero, politician, and philosopher. Creator of the revolutionary party, he is considered the founder of modern Cuba, and is regarded as the father of the nation. His mausoleum is protected by a guard of honour, and a changing of the guard ceremony takes place every half hour. The honour guards are chosen from conscripted men. They receive special training, especially in the martial parade, the Russian step, ie legs lifted to 90 degrees.
The changing of the guard is very colourful, and is a real tourist attraction, with tour buses coming every half hour to watch. The Mausoleum of Jose Marti is a hexagonal building. Inside, the coffin is wrapped in a Cuban flag, and in each of the six sides of the hexagon are the shields of the independent republics of America. Each side has a window, so the sun can enter the building at all times of the day. There is also a mausoleum erected in memory of Spanish soldiers killed in the Hispanic-Cuban-American War. www.rodamons.net
Basilica of the Virgin of Charity of Copper, Patroness of Cuba. This monument is located about 25 km away from Santiago, in the place where the Spanish used to run a copper mine. It is an important pilgrimage center. The slaves ve worked in the mine were granted their freedom in 1801, about 75 years earlier than their brothers of cambos cane.
This place is located in a really peculiar corner of the bustling city of Santiago de Cuba. The building is next to the central Plaza del Parque Céspedes and is one of those places that oozes history. Above all, it is worth going to observe the Cuban fondness for chess and is a very good opportunity for photography. It is said that there was a legendary chess game between Fidel Castro and Che in this place, although it seems that the outcome of the game has never been disclosed.
Sierra Maestra is a large mountain range that runs parallel to the south of the island. It is sparsely populated and are just a few small towns to be found, hidden in the dense forests. On our trip we had the opportunity to delve a bit into the rural life of the Cuban people and got to see some of their houses inside, as you can see in the photos displayed in this entry.
The main town buildings were all constructed around around the Cespedes Park. The church, the Town Hall and the Governor's House. Today it remains one of the main centers of the historic center of Santiago and a place to meet all kinds of people: Students, children, tourists, vagabonds. In the park there are many trees so the place is frequented in the hot hours to stay away from the sun.
This square, which was opened in 1991, is a 53,000 meters square and houses the country's highest statue of 16 meters high, in honor of Antonio Maceo y Grajales. The accompanying 23 machetes represent the date of 23rd March, 1878 when fighting resumed after the independence protest in Baraguá.
Cuba is currently one of the largest exporters of sugar cane in the world. In fact, it is estimated that 20% of the country's population works in this industry. On the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, you can see numerous sugar cane plantations as shown in these photos. You can visit some of the factories and enjoy a glass of cane juice, a natural drink produced by pressing sugar cane.
El Saltón is a waterfall nestled among the mountains among the ferns and wild orchids. It's a place of exceptional beauty and peace, ideal to relax and get away from the city. The coffee plantations surrounding the waterfall are also great places to explore and the locals are friendly and don't hesitate to open their doors and offer refreshments to visitors.
This house was built in 1522 and is the oldest in Cuba. It was the official residence of the first governor of the island restored it in the late 60s. Its Andalusian-style façade was inaugurated in 1970 as part of the Museum of Cuban History. The ground floor was used to house a chamber of commerce and where gold was melted, but the top was where Velazquez lived. Today, there are various rooms displaying furniture and decorative items dating from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Museum visitors can also see the house of the nineteenth century neoclassical style.
There is no better way to begin your visit to Santiago de Cuba, than to head towards the city on July 26, to the former Moncada Barracks. From here, Fidel Castro made his first attempt to assault against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Even today you can see the bullet holes in its facade. This was our first contact with the Cuban people.
The old Matusalem rum is no longer produced in Cuba; since 2002, it has been made in the Dominican Republic. Instead, it's now the Santiago de Cuba Rum Distillery, also of excellent quality. You can try different varieties: 7 years, 11 years, and 25 years Extra Anejo, which they say could perhaps be the best light rum in the world.
This basilica in El Cobre, about 20 km from Santiago, draws its name from the region's typical copper deposits, which have been actively used since pre-Columbian times. In the basilica we can see the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba. This image, which measures only 40 cm, is a must for thousands of pilgrims who make offerings. Some of them are kept in the temple like some that Ernest Hemingway left, some from outstanding athletes and even Fidel Castro's mother, who made an offering asking for divine protection for her child in the Sierra Maestra campaign.
The library's Ladder is literally a little corner with all kinds of old publications and memories of the Revolution (and previous material). I love the smell of old books that dominates the place and the people that could be found in it, as we spent the evening with this sympathetic group. A perfect place to learn more about Cuba and the people.
This park lies to the east of the square, an ancient market currently dominated by the church of Our Lady of Sorrows, which was restored after a fire in the 70's and turned into a concert hall. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes around the square, as well as craft shops. Behind is the Emilio Bacari Moreau museum, founded in 1899, by the rum tycoon, war hero, and mayor of the city, with an eclectic collection, including the only mummy on the island.