Saint Peter of the Rock, heritage in eastern Cuba

Saint Peter of the Rock, heritage in eastern Cuba

Heritage & Traditions

By Nina Pereira

Imposing at the entrance to the bay of Santiago de Cuba, in the east of the island, the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca (St. Peter of the Rock) is a privileged witness to the history of the country and one of its most important heritage sites.

The fortress, also known as El Morro, because it is located on a rocky promontory of that name, was built as a result of commercial and political rivalries in the Caribbean region in the 17th century, in order to protect the important port of the place.

The fortification, designed by the Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, began to be built in 1638, during the government of Don Pedro de la Roca y Borjas, and is considered a jewel of military architecture in this geographical area during the colonial period, with features of medieval and renaissance styles.

During the wars of independence in the 19th century, this intricate complex of forts, bastions and batteries lost its defensive importance and was destined as a military prison. Among other historical events, the castle witnessed on July 3, 1898, the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba, between the Spanish squad commanded by Vice Admiral Pascual Cervera and a North American squad, a fact that put an end to the colonial rule of Spain in America.

After the end of the Spanish-Cuban-American War, the fortress was occupied by the US Army, and in 1904 it was registered as the property of the Cuban State.

For decades the fortress was abandoned, until it was restored in 1962, and on July 23, 1978 a museum was inaugurated inside, which shows visitors its interiors, the history of piracy in the Caribbean and various collections of several centuries.

As a fair recognition of its values, the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca was declared a National Monument in 1979, and in 1997 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A few steps from the castle there is a lighthouse dating from 1842, damaged during the war actions of the 19th century, but later restored and still in use, with a range of 45 miles