With the recent celebrations for the centenary of the Silverio Sánchez Figueras Bridge, the western Cuban city of Matanzas now has five bridges that are more than 100 years old, something unique in Cuba and the Americas.
Located 100km east of Havana, the three hundred year old city of Matanzas stands on the San Juan and Yumurí rivers, separated by a mere 600 meters of land and the Canimar river that flows through its outer limits.
The municipality is bordered by a bay and soft rolling hills, and is the main town of the province with which it shares its name, with about 30 pedestrian, rail and road bridges that connect it’s various neighborhoods.
Architect Ramón Recondo said that they all have a “well defined purpose and are part of the town’s urban landscape” and engineer Luis González Arestuche expressed the need for more attention to be paid to this integral element of Matanzas’ urban culture.
Matanzas boasts many nicknames, but the one that locals feel most proud of is the “Athens of Cuba”, stemming from a cultural development during the 19th century that has been maintained until today.
Economic demands and territorial expansion of its limits and beyond required the construction of viaducts to keep communications open between neighborhoods separated by river waters, hence the reason why Matanzas is also known as the “City of Bridges”.
Expert José Macías says that bridges symbolize this “City of Bridges and Rivers” and asks, “What would Matanzas be without them?” González Arestuche likes to think of the bridges as “Town Guardians”.
On the highway known as the Vía Blanca out of Cuba’s capital.
The 16m wide bridge is at 109m and 314m respectively, the highest and longest in Cuba.
A group of Cuban engineers started its construction in 1956 and it opened three years later.
Once in the municipality, the traveler crosses General Lacret Morlot or La Concordia Bridge, the oldest of the five centenarians and the first to be built steel on the Island. It has a column in each of its four corners and a miniature one of these pillars is the symbol Matanzas’ grants to outstanding individuals and entities from the society.
Just a few short meters away, another one hundred year old bridge known as the “Iron Bridge” joins the two Banks of the Yumuri river and serves trains carrying cargo to and from the nearby harbor docks.
Crossing the hundred year old General Calixto García or Tirry Bridge, will bring a visitor into the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood, though there is presently a vehicle weight limit to preserve the structure.
Almost parallel and just a little over half a kilometer away, the impressive foundation of the 50m long and 10m wide Sánchez Figueras de la Plaza and San Luis Bridge can be found, respectively the first in Matanzas and the second in Cuba to be built with reinforced concrete.
The fifth and last of the city’s quintet of distinguished elders is the Giratorio Bridge which opened in 1904 over the mouth of the San Juan river. it could be considered an extension of the Iron Bridge. It lost its capacity to turn a long time ago.
This interesting odyssey concludes on the road to Cuba’s prime beach resort, Varadero, where the 297m long and more than 35m high Antonio Guiteras – Cubas’s most recently constructed viaduct – spans the mouth of Canímar river as it runs into the sea.