Artemis, the Red Village

Artemis, the Red Village

Heritage & Traditions

Gabriela Santiesteban

In lands that stand out in Cuba for their fertility is the city of Artemisa, born in the 19th century in the west of the island and called by many the Red Villa, due to the color of the soil around it.

With about 689 square kilometers at present, the city, with a council established since 1879, arose in a place known as the Marién chiefdom, where in 1635 the San Marcos corral was created for the breeding of small livestock.

The founding of a town there was the initiative of prominent lawyer and politician Francisco de Arango y Parreño, to welcome and provide livelihoods for victims of a voracious fire in 1802 that destroyed two neighborhoods of Havana.

The region was gaining in prosperity and San Marcos de la Artemisa was called the Garden of Cuba, due to the rich coffee plantations that proliferated, more than 130 in the first four decades of the 19th century.

There are several versions of its name. Some say that it originated in the French colonists' custom of baptizing their coffee plantations with Roman names. For others, it is due to Artemisa Pedrea, a young man with great appeal and numerous suitors, in whose house parties and gatherings were held.

However, the theory of various historians seems to have more roots. They say that long before it was founded, a road that linked the capital with Pinar del Río used to cross there, where horse or mule cattle ran, as well as animal-drawn carts.

In those places, there was a place to accommodate travelers and recover from fatigue. Near that environment there was a well or trough, which was totally surrounded by a fragrant and medicinal herb: Artemisa (Artemisa vulgaris).

Hence, men used to say: "See you where Artemisa grows ..." "I'll wait for you on the way back, where the Artemisa plants ..." and other similar phrases, which gave a popular baptism to the town, today Head city of the province of the same name, with innumerable attractions.