A warm look would be enough to discover the most Caribbean of cities, Santiago de Cuba, province and capital of the same name, where history, culture and tradition merge to give a peculiar stamp to its hospitable inhabitants. The province is bordered to the north by Holguín, to the west by Granma, to the east by Guantánamo and to the south by the Caribbean Sea. It is the second most populated city in Cuba with approximately 1,022,105 inhabitants. Surrounded by the mountains that form the Sierra Maestra, which is home to the highest elevation in the country and the largest river on the island, Santiago is a beautiful and towering city crisscrossed with hills and sloping streets.
Santiago de Cuba is the “Hero City of the Republic of Cuba”, a title that recognizes the extraordinary contribution of its children to the libertarian deeds of Cubans and the only city that holds such recognition. As in no other region of the country, in Santiago races and cultures mix and enrich. Its inhabitants are characterized by being a happy and supportive town. Music is an essential component of the spirit of the santiaguero. It has been the cradle of important musicians and musical genres that have made the nation famous and have spread throughout the world with an indelible identity: Santiago is recognized as the cradle of the conga, the son, the bolero, and the movement. troubadour, whose most distinguished initiator was José Pepe Sánchez in the latter. It is worth highlighting its famous carnivals and the internationally recognized Caribbean Festival.
Legendary Villa and the first capital of the country, founded in 1515 by the Adelantado Diego Velázquez, which still conserves its exuberant vegetation and its wild sea, which previously crossed corsairs and pirates, whose presence led Spain to build the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca, a military fortress that guards its beautiful bay and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. An enclave converted into a tourist attraction, which houses the Museum of Piracy and from where you can see a beautiful landscape of the bay.
Of its streets you might want to visit: Heredia Street, also known as Cathedral Street, six blocks full of domestic and public architecture, some of them turned into museums; Aguilera Street, the longest in Santiago, born at the port and ending at the Siboney road; Enramadas the most popular and full of markets and all types of services; Padre Pico street which is a stairway with over one century of existence and according to what they say in Santiago “if you do not visit Padre Pico, you have not seen Santiago”.
Of the first settlements during the 16th century, only vestiges remain. Until the 18th century architecturally, Old Santiago did not begin to be the same. Until then the city was looted, burned, exposed to the inclemencies of nature such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Thus was born a new construction system, a very unique architecture, where the Mudejar-Andalusian style dominated in a good way, with beautiful corridor balconies, blown windows, interior patios, beautiful facades, which accentuated the uniqueness of the Santiago landscape. Later in the following years, more elaborate styles appeared: neoclassical, baroque, eclectic, in short, represented in their dissimilar buildings. Without forgetting those convoluted streets, which are abruptly interrupted and give way to alleys, a staircase or the intersection of a corner, breaking the urban symmetry of all times.
It is curious to know about its streets: Calle Heredia, formerly known as Calle de la Catedral, six blocks full of domestic and public architecture, some of them converted into museums; Calle Aguilera, the longest street in Santiago, starts on the coast of the port and ends at the Siboney road; Enramadas, the most popular, a street packed with shops and services of all kinds; the Padre Pico stairway, a stairway with more than a century of existence, and according to the Santiago saying, not having seen it, is never having been in Santiago.
The city of Santiago has a rich architectural-historical-cultural heritage. In the Plaza de Céspedes beats the heart of Santiago de Cuba, a cozy park that in its surroundings brings together the oldest, monumental and hierarchical buildings, such as the Cathedral, Santa Metropolitan Basilica, created in 1522 and rebuilt several times until 1922. It is home to the Archdiocesan Museum, among its attributes it preserves the Ecce Homo, a pictorial work, which is said to be the oldest on the Island. As a witness to the origins of the city, adjacent to the park is a two-story building that belonged to Governor Diego Velázquez and considered the oldest house in America, currently converted into a museum; on one of its sides the Municipal Palace or Town Hall built in the second half of the 20th century, based on a project devised in 1738, and which its executors were inspired to achieve, to achieve the monumentality that it exhibits today and is the setting every year end main event of the Flag Festival. On the other side, the Municipal House of Culture, better known for the San Carlos Club, was built in 1910 and stands out for its marbles, ironwork and columns.
Other historical and cultural exponents of the city are also made up of the Museo Casa Natal de Heredia, a National Monument and dates from the 18th century; the Moncada Barracks, a barracks that were attacked by Fidel Castro commanding 135 men in 1953; the Bivouac, the old jail of Santiago and today the Historical Archive; the Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Antonio Maceo and its Holographic museum; the Casa de la Trova; the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, dating from 1868 of immense historical and architectural value, declared a National Monument and where the mortal remains of the National Hero of Cuba rest: José Martí; the Emilio Bacardi Museum, the first public museum and dates from 1899; the Theater, the Concert Hall, the Casa de la Trova, the Rum Museum, among other values.
Religion is part of the life of the people of Santiago. With its holy Virgin of Charity, patron saint of the Island, who protects the air of the mountains, the Sanctuary of El Cobre emerges to the northeast of Santiago, a basilica erected in 1927, which according to tradition was found by three miners, over the waters of Nipe Bay.
The city is characterized by the development of Afro-Cuban aspects, which leave their mark, both in music and in popular festivals. The Carnival of Santiago, has its origins in the 18th century, and is the most colorful and vigorous in the entire country. It consists of a cultural competition between neighborhoods in the first days of January. The comparsas, the musical themes, the costumes and of course ¨La Conga¨ fill the streets and squares of the city with an unequaled hubbub.
The nightlife of Santiago de Cuba is very active, there are countless bars where you can enjoy the renowned Cuban rum and entertaining downloads and gatherings. There are several cabarets with excellent shows, where music and dance delight and infect the audience, among the most important the famous and lively Tropicana Santiago. The province has excellent hotels, restaurants and cafes. There are also in this city, several university centers, a notable cultural and sports movement, which allow it to celebrate different events, festivals, congresses and exhibitions throughout the year. The region encourages event and incentive tourism.
The beautiful landscapes and the preserved ecosystems characterize this Eastern province. The vegetation is mainly composed of forests of timber trees. Rivers abound in the area, including the Cauto River, which is the longest in the country. When you leave the city to the east and the Loma de San Juan begins to descend, between the majestic Gran Piedra mountain range and the sea, the Baconao Park, a Natural Biosphere Reserve, extends. In this valley there are the Prado de las Esculturas and the Valle de la Prehistoria, which recreates the life of the Jurassic period. In La Punta, a perfectly recognizable site, you will find the Transport Museum with its collection of real cars dating from 1912. At kilometer 14 of the Baconao Park is the Granjita Siboney, a National Monument. Very close to Baconao is the Aquarium, a place for recreation and scientific didacticism with its shark tank, as well as a gigantic pond with different marine species and its great attraction: dolphins.
Other elevations of interest are the mountain ranges of the Sierra Maestra with the Turquino National Parks -the highest elevation in the country- and the Gran Piedra. These elevations are the youngest geological formation in Cuba. They are approximately 240km long. The highest point is El Pico Real del Turquino with 1,974m above sea level, guarded by Los Picos Cuba and Sweden. The Great Stone, also declared a Natural Reserve of the Biosphere, is a gigantic rock, the highest peak in the mountain range of this name, included in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest known rock of 1,200m above sea level, with weighing about 70,000 tons. For its part, the Desembarco del Granma National Park is also of great interest for its inestimable ecological value.
The beaches of the region have a special attraction as they are escorted by such an impressive mountainous landscape, including Mar Verde, Buey Cabón, Caletón Blanco, among others. The deep waters of the Caribbean Sea will welcome visitors, who choose this destination to spend their vacations. Enjoy ecotourism in the adventure and hiking mode; as well as the practice of nautical activities and health tourism.