Isle of Youth, the island of a thousand names

Isle of Youth, the island of a thousand names

Heritage & Traditions

By Susana Gómez

Isle of Youth, the island of a thousand names By Susana Gómez Few territories on the planet have been called in such diverse ways throughout its history as the current Isle of Youth, in the waters of the southwest of Cuba, known as the land of a thousand names.

Locatedin the north of the Caribbean Sea, specifically in the Gulf of Batabanó, it is the second largest island in the Cuban archipelago and the fifth largest in the Antilles.

Admiral Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1494, on his second trip to the so-called New World, and baptized her as La Evangelista, although it was neither the first nor the last of its names.

The aborigines who inhabited it called it Camaraco, Guanaja or Siguanea; the Spanish conqueror Diego Velázquez named it Santiago; King Fernando VII, Colony of Queen Amalia, and even others, such as Santa María, San Pauli and Isla de Pinos, due to the proliferation of these trees there.

Among other names, it has also been known as the Island of the Parrots, an abundant bird on its premises, and the Island of the Pirates, as it served as a refuge for those men of the sea, to the point that it is ensured that the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson inspired him to write his famous novel Treasure Island.

Duringa world youth festival held in Cuba in 1978, it acquired its current name due to the numerous educational institutions that existed there. And as varied as its names, the attractions of this portion of land, integrated into the Canarreos archipelago together with more than 600 keys and islets, the island finally has a privileged source of enjoyment in the sea.

Caves, walls of black corals, diverse fauna, passageways, tunnels, galleon hulls ... can be seen in the seabed of that area, of singular beauty and good conservation, where there is a five-meter-high coral, called the Caribbean Cathedral, the world’s largest. 

History, traditions, culture, with manifestations very typical of the place, can also be appreciated in the Isle of Youth, a land with which nature was generous, and that man has been turning into an interesting destination.