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Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Type of Location
About Location

Santiago de Cuba is the capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island nation of Cuba, some 540 miles (870 km) south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana.The municipality extends over 1,023.8 square kilometers (395.3 sq mi),and contains the communities of El Caney, Guilera, Antonio Maceo, Bravo, Castillo Duany, Leyte Vidal and Moncada.Historically Santiago de Cuba has long been the second most important city on the island after Havana, and still remains the second largest. It is on a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important sea port. In 2004 the city of Santiago de Cuba had a population of about 494,337 people.

Santiago was also the home of the revolutionary hero, Frank Pais. On July 26, 1953, the Cuban Revolution began with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by a small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. Shortly after this disastrous incident, Pais began talking with students and young working people informally, drawing around him what became an extremely effective urban revolutionary alliance. This developed into highly organized cells coordinating a large scale urban resistance that became instrumental in the success of the Cuban Revolution.

Furthermore, Santiago de Cuba is well-known for its traditional dances, most notably son, from which salsa has been derived, and guaguanco, which is accompanied by percussion music only. The city is also well-known for its Carnival, which is strangely enough celebrated in July. During Carnival, traditional conga music is played in the streets on a typical, pentatonic trumpet, called the trompeta china.A relatively high number of residents of the city adhere to Afro-Cuban religions, most notably santeria. The city hosts an important community of descendants from Haitian immigrants from the 19th century. Some aspects of the religious "vodún" heritage of the city can be traced back to this community.

How to Reach

By Air

Santiago is served by Antonio Maceo Airport. Direct flights to anywhere in Haiti provided by Sunrise Airways.

By Train

There is a daily overnight train to/from Havana with stops in Camagüey and Santa Clara. This service is the Tren Frances on alternate days, which is more reliable and comfortable than other Cuban trains. There is a daytime train to Camaguey and Santa Clara on Thursdays and Sundays, returning on Mondays and Fridays. Local train service to Holguin has been suspended due to poor track conditions.

By Bus

Four daily Viazul buses run to/from Havana, with some stopping in Sancti Spiritus, Camagüey, and Santa Clara. There are also daily buses to/from Baracoa, Trinidad and Varadero.

Key places to visit
Parque Cespedes, San Pedro del Mar, Cuartel Moncada, Castillo del Morro, Emilio Bacardi Moreau, Teatro Heredia, San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Bar Virgilio


Places to Visit

Parque Cespedes

At the beginning of the 16th century the area now occupied by this park formed the boundaries of the Plaza de Armas (main city square) and around it were the principal buildings of the colonial settlement: church, town hall and Governor's House. Today, it continues to be one of the main centers in the historic quarter of Santiago. If you want to see some of the most interesting faces in Santiago, all you have to do is come down here one afternoon or evening and sit, and watch. It's a great place for people-watching.

San Pedro del Mar

One of the most traditional nightclubs in Santiago, it is famous for its cabarets and shows. Just a short walk from the Balcón del Caribe Hotel and the Castillo del Morro castle, the venue is built on a natural terrace that juts out into the sea. All visitors are well attended, and there is a wide choice both to eat and drink, including all sorts of Cuban drinks and cocktails. Wednesday and Thursday nights have a romantic theme to them, spiced with boleros and all sorts of nostalgic-sounding songs.

Cuartel Moncada

On July 26, 1953, this military barracks was the scene of a famous revolutionary episode against the tyrannical Batista regime. Despite the failure of that particular military venture, the attack served to highlight the will of many young Cubans to struggle for their freedom. The building has a plaque on the front wall in remembrance of an assault on the November 30, 1956, by the 26 of July Revolutionary Group. Today, inside you will find the Museo de la Clandestinidad covering the period from the Spanish conquest to the guerrilla movement of the 1959 revolution in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

Castillo del Morro

This is an old garrison that still appears to be guarding the entrance to the bay, even though the English pirates have long since sailed off into history. To reach the fort it is necessary to go to the outskirts of town and it is well worth the trip just to see this castle built in 1643. The fort offers a vantage point from which to see the whole port and Sierra Maestra Mountains. In addition to guarding the bay, it was also a prison and tomb for Cuban patriots in the 19th century. The complex also includes the Museo de la Pirateria (The Pirate Museum).

Emilio Bacardi Moreau

This was one of Cuba's very first museums, set up by Emilio Bacardi, and built by architect Carlos Segrera. Housed within the museum is a valuable collection covering the period between the Spanish conquest and the wars of Independence (from Spain). On the great entrance doorway there are some wonderful images of the goddess Minerva; while inside there is a large collection of weapons and mambí artifacts. There is also a good exhibit of Cuban and European paintings as well as an archaeological display that includes the only Egyptian mummy to be found in Cuba.

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