Bayamo, Land of Lore
By Heidy González Cabrera Photo: Ismael Francisco
"I want to go to Bayamo… riding a carriage!" goes the chorus from a memorable and popular Cuban Sun song.
These lyrics reﬂect the folkloric background of the city of Bayamo. Capital of the eastern Province of Granma and the second town to be founded in Cuba by Spaniards, Bayamo seems to rise from a Caribbean postcard.
As soon as they arrive to this city, visitors notice two things -there are not many tourists and there are a large number of horse-drawn carriages traveling next to the buses and cars on the streets.
You might think that the widespread use of this mode of transportation is a result of the country's economic limitations but there is another reason.
In Bayamo, carriages are a very strong tradition shared by the more than 135,000 inhabitants. They go up and down the city making it a timeless place in the age of space travel. The interest in preserving the use of such old-fashioned means of transportation is evident in the existence of a factory still manufacturing carriages and parts.
Bayamo is not only known for this though. It is also the birthplace of the Cuban national anthem and has a place of importance in the history of Cuba‘s fight for independence.
The unstoppable advance of technology has forced the horse-drawn carriages to share the road with motor vehicles So everyday in downtown Bayamo, you can hear both the noise of cars and the ironing of horses. They are so accustomed to traveling alongside large, noisy vehicles that they have stopped being scared.
There is another interesting detail. In the queue of carriages waiting to be boarded, when one leaves with passengers, the horses standing behind walk up to the next place in line on their own. The force of habit for both horses and passengers contributes to the continuation of this very Cuban tradition.
There is no way that a Cuban visiting Bayamo, or a foreigner who knows the song, can resist taking a carriage and singing: "Yo quiero ir a Bayamo… ¡montando en coche!”