The Caribbean Santiago de Cuba
By Ana Maria Silveira
Founded 506 years ago, Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in the country, and the most Caribbean, not only because of the sea that bathes it, but, above all, because of the mixture of races and cultures that converged there like nowhere else in the archipelago.
Established on July 25, 1515 on the southern coast of the eastern portion of the island, the town was one of the first seven established in this territory during the conquest campaign carried out by the advanced Diego Velázquez, governor of the then colony Spanish.
The town was welcomed by the lands of the Bayatiquirí chiefdom, west of a wide and well-protected bag bay, and later settled in its current location, being the capital of the island until 1556, when Havana succeeded it.
For its defense, the fortress of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro was built on a hill in the bay, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which now houses the Museum of Piracy. The Céspedes Park is the founding site and heart of the city, surrounded by a complex of significant architectural and historical value, formed by the Diego Velázquez house museum, the metropolitan cathedral, the City Hall and the Casa Granda hotel.
Its urban landscape is diverse, with styles ranging from baroque to the purest neoclassical, and those most typical of modernity. Wooded parks, stepped streets, colonial buildings with large windows and balconies distinguish the city scene. Santiago de Cuba holds the title of Hero City of the Republic for its participation in crucial events in national history since the wars of independence.
There the armed struggle against the Fulgencio Batista regime began on July 26, 1953, when a group of youths led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada barracks, in coordination with an attack on the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks, in Bayamo, actions whose 68th anniversary the country celebrates these days.
As part of its rich culture, the city treasures a valuable musical heritage, marked by rhythms such as son, bolero and trova, genres that have made Cuban music universal.
The eastern city is especially known for the marked joviality and hospitality of its inhabitants, who star in one of the most famous popular festivals in the country, the Santiago Carnival, which every July turns the streets into a stage for dance groups and conga music, declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation.