SANTIAGO DE CUBA
|It is often described as a jewel of the eastern part of the island. It is located close to a deep bay and high mountains, and you can meet with a typically relaxed lifestyle and a diverse mix of residents - Santiago used to be the first place where the first ships arrived with African slaves. The city was founded in 1515 by Diego Velasquez and named after the Spanish patron, Saint James (Santiago). For its convenient location, it became the gateway to the country and for a short period also its capital. However, its boom didn´t last too long. After the subsidence of the gold rush, several earthquakes and pirate raids in 1553, the governor of the island Gonzálo Perez de Angulo decided to relocate to Havana. Five years later, there was even issued an edict by which all foreign trade had to be directed through Havana, which finally relegated Santiago to the role of number two.|
Most of the interesting places are located in the historical center of the town, near by a charismatic square Parqué Céspedes. This place (originally called Plaza de Armas) is famous for the courtesans searching for customers among tourists. On the eastern side of the park there is a stylish hotel Casa Granda, and the entire park is surrounded by a number of magnificent buildings. Here you will find the Town Hall Ayuntamiento, the former residence of the governor of Cuba (Casa del Gobierno), the former villa of Diego Velasquez (now Museo de Ambiente Cubano), or the famous Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion.
The Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion was originally built in 1522, but was later destroyed several times by pirates, and earthquake, and then rebuilt again. Above the entrance to the cathedral you can see the figures of angels and statues of Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew de las Casas, protector of Indians. The current appearance of the cathedral dates from 1818 and the best view to the cathedral is from the rooftop terrace bar at hotel Casa Granda.
Not far from the cathedral you can find the Balcon de Velasquez, a full size replica of the original fort guarding the entrance to the harbor. On the opposite direction from Parque Céspedes, towards Plaza Dolorez, there is another landmark that visitors of Santiago shouldn´t miss - Museo Emilio Bacardi Moreau. This is a museum founded in 1899 by a former mayor and a rum magnate Emilio Bacardi. The interesting part of the exposure are Bacardi´s private collections, gathered for several decades. In addition to works of art, there are whips and chains for slaves, wooden mats for cutting off hands or feet, and many another objects approaching Cuba's colonial period.
Santiago de Cuba
|Photos from Santiago de Cuba|