Bellamar Caves, a destination to rediscover
Sandra Perez Lugo
Although Cuba is generally associated with luminous sun rays and sandy beaches, in the Caribbean island there are sites more linked to the shadows of caves, such as those of Bellamar, about a hundred kilometers east of Havana, considered the first tourist destination that the country had.
The Caves of Bellamar, in the province of Matanzas, have not stood out in the travel portals that flood digital networks with suggestions of places to visit but, for generations of Cubans, and more recently foreigners, the geographical accident of these caves has been an obligatory stop in the transit between the west and the east.
Accidentally discovered in 1861 by a slave who was looking for his lost work tool, the set of caves consists of over 23 kilometers of galleries that, due to their aesthetic values, paleontological findings and, in general, their history and crystalline processes, are today a National Monument .
Specialists point out that it really is a single cave -although tradition uses the plural- whose galleries and passageways began to form about 300 thousand years ago, on a plain that originally was under the sea. The stalactites and stalagmites, of dissimilar shapes, give rise to true art galleries.
The former are cylindrical and, as they increase in size, they become conical, while the stalagmites are conical or flattened, and both grow to join and form columns. Over the years, these unique formations have been baptized with names that evoke the images they resemble.
For example, The Tunnel of Love, the Chapel of the 12 Apostles, the Devil's Throat, the Passage of the Queen, the Hall of Snows, the Saint Peter and Gothic temples ... In the Bellamar Caves there are also popular legends in Cuba, such as the American Bath, a well in which, many years ago an American decided to take a bath and was never found again, in these really harmless, kind and dignified caves waiting to be rediscovered.