Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba


Exploring the province

Due to its exceptional geographical conditions, Santiago de Cuba was the first capital of the Greater Antilles. The Conqueror himself Hernán Cortés was the first mayor of the city and for his bay entered the country the first black slaves from the African region that served as labor force and as Labor of the earliest constructions of the time Colonial. Nowadays, it is the second most important province in Cuba, after the capital (Havana), due to its economic development and its population density.

santiago de cuba skyline

The Bay of Santiago de Cuba is connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important port for international trade. In fact, the city has grown over the years around it. On the mainland, it is surrounded by the Sierra Maestra, the most important mountain group in Cuba, which determines the warm and humid climate that predominates in the place. The city is exceptionally beautiful because of its combination of hilly, urban and marine landscape, articulated through countless slopes that make the avenues, even the busiest, extremely irregular.

In addition to its exotic nature, the city played such an important role in the struggle for the independence of the country that is known as the Hero City of Cuba. The Catholic Church of the province was the first seat of the archdiocese on the island, a title that it preserves today. For its privileged position, Santiago de Cuba was for years the territory that accommodated all those who lose in the Caribbean Sea, from the refugees of Haiti to the settlers of Lusitania. Then, Catalans, Jamaicans and Chinese also began to arrive. Santiago de Cuba, because of this, is the city of greatest crossbreeding of the island, and this crossbreeding has been precisely what has defined Cuban nationality.

Due to its early and constant development, in the city coexist several architectural styles, from colonial Classic to Baroque and pure rationalism, through Art deco. In addition to the city of Greater crossbreeding, it is also the most eclectic, so the large number of visitors who each year host the Santiago de Cuba in their homes of rent are taking to their countries the most exotic image of the island. Santiago de Cuba is the place where important musical genres were born that became what we now know as Cuban popular music, as is the case of son, Bolero and traditional trova. It is the city of the country that most fervently externalize the idiosyncrasy of the people and combines the cultural values that characterize the Cubans, which makes it one of the most attractive cities for tourism on the island. Among the popular festivities, the most notable are the Santiaguero carnival and the Fire party, considered the best mass celebrations in the country. Since the late 1990s, several of the sites within its territory have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Diego Velazquez, founder of Santiago de Cuba Village

History of Santiago de Cuba

Foundation of Santiago de Cuba Village

Santiago de Cuba, last of the first 7 existent villages in the XVI century and second city more important of the Island of Cuba, it was founded July 25 1515 toward the end of the process of Spanish conquest of the Island. Its name: Santiago de Cuba Village, comes given by his foundation date, day when the parties are made in honor of Santiago Apostle, warrior saint and patron from Spain. The Foundation of the village Santiago de Cuba was a task commended to Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (that from his position of Lieutenant of Governor, not only had the responsibility of directing the conquest, also the colonization of the territory and the exploitation in benefit to the colonists and of the Spanish crown).

Santiago from Cuba, it was destined to be the Spanish Government’s Headquarters in the Island after being discovered its exceptional geographical conditions, so the excellent location of the port with easiness for the communication and sailing in the lands already conquered and the places in that conquest began, besides the great abundance of mineral existent vestiges in the village. Founding the village of Santiago de Cuba, Diego Velázquez proceeded to organize it and to populate it, for which he made different conqueror-colonists of other villages like Baracoa and Bayamo come, and he structured the administration of the same one designating to the four councillor of his first municipal council, and other authorities. The main appointment relapsed in Hernán Cortés Monroy, noted as mayor, who, from the primitive village, left with his ships, to the conquest of Mexico. In the structure of government of the Island occupied a privilege position: The Church, Spanish Parliament and The Real Treasury, carrying out each one the functions that established its roll inside the existent society.

The village of Santiago de Cuba was raised high to the city range in 1522 after that April 28 1522 a Pope Alejandro VI’s bull transferred the bishopric and its “Nuestra Señora de la Asunción” of the village of Baracoa to this honorable city. After having reached this range, Santiago de Cuba, eclectic style’s city, rested his life and initial prosperity in the only exportable line of good value that the Island got for those years: Gold. Like government’s headquarters and of The Real Treasury, here it was the main foundry, and everyone that had gathered gold has come to Santiago to fuse it and pay the taxes.

beautiful santiago province city

The gold production got its more prosperous period in the decades of 1520 and 1530. But with the exhaustion of this, necessarily took place a change of attitude toward the land (real estate). To possess the land it was not from then on only a reason of nobility, but also the indispensable resource to sustain or to reach wealth, fundamentally through the cattle, almost the only productive line with exportable value that was in the Island.

This crisis, more other facts that gave beginning to a long period of decadence of the city, were among other: The discovery of the advantages of the sailing for the Channel of Bahamas – to the north of Cuba – it took out Santiago de Cuba of the habitual route of the ships that came and went to Spain, and the depopulation of the city, since the inhabitants moved to the prospers village of Havana, as well as to the rich colonies, even to Bayamo, safe places for the attacks of corsairs and pirates. It was the Cuban capital in the period from 1515 to 1607 because to these unfavorable circumstances in those that the King from Spain is forced to divide the island in two governments, Havana and Santiago, passing this last one to a background, being subordinated to the first one, and being the capital city of the the county of East.

Already to beginnings of the XIX century, the city of Santiago de Cuba was industrial and commercially developed, the same as agricultural, mining and economic. Always with certain ascending rhythm. Nevertheless the communications and the growth of other urban masses in the county, allow that this conserved their dominion and attraction. It had good buildings, residence neighborhoods, schools, institutes, laboratories and industries. Everything due to the increment of the commercial relationships with other countries that given the importance some of them established consulates here in the city.

Santiago de Cuba, considered Hero City of the republic, title that was granted by the support from its town to the liberal gestes of the Cubans, is at the moment the second more populated city of the country. Also, it is a tourist destination in which it combine multiple and attractive values which allow the visitor to enter in contact with its people’s idiosyncrasy, the culture and history of the place and, at the same time, to enjoy its well conserved nature and exotic beaches. There is in the city – grateful as the most Caribbean in Cuba – a score of important museums; and for the night life works many pleasant places, among cabarets, discos, piano bars and rooms of parties.

asalto cuartel moncada

The most peculiar thing is the contrast of the Santiago de Cuba city that cohabits with the sea and the mountains, since it’s located around the immense bay flooded by the sea Caribbean, and it has as backdrop and belt that wraps it on the side of mainland to the Sierra Maestra. This conditions the warm and humid climate of the place, at the same time that it allows to admire beautiful landscapes with a rich composition of urban, natural and marine elements all together. Santiago de Cuba is a city that impresses for his form, in constant dialogue between the architecture and the landscape, as well as for his people’s warmth, main characters of a rich history of fights, cultural heritage and miscegenation, a city that has an significant architectural patrimony, and he got the necessity that be preserved and conserve.

Assault to the Moncada Barracks

The assault to the Moncada Barracks, in 1953 were the headquarters of the regiment “Antonio Maceo” in the city of Santiago de Cuba, capital of the eastern county. For its importance, Moncada was the second military fort of the country, occupied by about a thousand men under the command of Fulgencio Batista.

March 10 1952, Fulgencio Batista gave a coup d’etat allied with the yankee imperialism that sank the island in a deep prostration, an awful delay, a big political crisis, and it established a bloody dictatorship. A group of young of Orthodox Party having conscience of the graveness in that this man had sunk to the country and of the absence of a political force able to face and to overthrow to the tyranny, led by Fidel Castro, it was given to the task of preparing, this assault, action that was carried out July 26 1953 and it marked the beginning of the last stage of the fight of the town for their total liberation. The assault to the Moncada Barracks marked rule in the definition of the revolutionary victory in what concerns to independece war, since soon after the people known the objectives and they were called to be incorporated to the fight. The plan was elaborated in secret at all. Besides Fidel Castro, it were knew only for two partners of this movement and the responsible one in Santiago de Cuba.

santiago province street

They had two Leadership Committees: one military, to the Fidel’s control, and another civilian, directed by Abel Santamaría. Also, it was about a selective organization. For orientations of Fidel, their members were recruited between the classes and sectors humble of the population: workers, peasants, employees, modest professionals. They were preferably young people, unaware to all personal ambition, not infected for bad habits of the traditional politics. The weapons, uniforms and all necessary resources for the fight were obtained without appealing to the help of wealthy people neither of political corrupt. Their acquisition was possible fundamentally for the will and the personal sacrifice of the own combatants. The date chosen for the action was July 26 because this day was Sunday of carnival, traditionally party which the people of different points of the island attend, reason why the presence of young of other counties would go unnoticed. In the dawn of that day, 135 combatants, dresses with uniforms of the Army and led by Fidel, check out the attack plan. They were organized in three groups, the first one with Fidel, it would attack the quarter. The other two groups led by Abel Santamaría (second officer in command of the movement) and Raúl Castro, would take two contiguous important buildings: the Civil Hospital and The Court House.

When everything was ready, it was given reading to the “Manifesto del Moncada”, wrote by the young poet Raúl Gómez García under Fidel orientation. The surprise, main factor of the success, it wasn’t achieved. The fight was begun outside of the El Cuartel Moncada and it was prolonged in a combat of positions. The rebels has a confrontation with a superior enemy in weapons and men, retrenched inside that strength. Understanding that to continue the fight under those conditions was a massive suicide, Fidel ordered the retreat. Immediately after these facts, the dictatorship reacted with a brutal repression, where Batista transformed to El Cuartel Móncada into a torture and death workroom, and some unworthy men transformed the military uniform into butchers’ aprons to execute each participants of so transcendental act. After the victory of the revolution El Cuartel Moncada was transformed into a school city that it took the name of School “Ciudad Escolar 26 de Julio” and a space of her was devoted to Museum on the facts related with the assault.

Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba

The Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba took place July 3 of 1898 to the exit of the bay of Santiago from Cuba during The Spanish-American War. In 1898 United decreed a naval blockade to the island of Cuba without any war declaration.

Batalla Naval de Santiago de Cuba

February 15 1898 exploded in the port of Havana the U.S. battleship “Maine” that it cames to Cuba in an antidiplomatic visit of provocation without notice. The explosion was provoked deliberately by its own manning that were in earth in a party offered by the Spaniards in spite of the naval blockade and insulting behavior of the Americans. United States accused Spain for the explosion and declared the war with retroactive effects at the beginning of the blockade, sending his troops quickly to Cuba.

The government from Spain decided sends a new fleet of the Armada to Cuba, quite similar to the recently lost one in Philippines, in the disaster of Cavite, with the admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete. The fleet did set sail in April 29. United States, on the other hand sent two powerful fleets to Cuba. To their arrival to Cuba, the Spanish fleet was docked in Santiago’s port avoiding the combat in open sea against the U.S. fleets. It was a seemingly safe place, because for the enemy was impossible to enter, but this would be very difficult to leave if the U.S. fleet established a blockade.

The U.S. fleet arrived May 19 from 1898 to the port of Santiago de Cuba. The Spanish fleet was blocked in Santiago’s port, and refused to leave this security that the port offered. In the moment that the whole American fleet was in wait, the Spanish fleet decided to leave the bay for orders of the government. Everything happened in the dawn of July 3, after a disastrous battle in what the Spanish fleet was seriously damaged. It is necessary to recognize that the Spanish fleet was notably inferior to the U.S. but the Spanish leader was unable to devise a coherent and structured military strategy.


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