In the province of Artemisa, tourists get a good look at the stark reality of Cuba and the challenges the Cuban work force face every day of their lives. To many observers it may seem these creative workers have one hand tied behind their back. Residents of Artemisa work hard to put the province’s rich soil to work. Farmers must rely on their ingenuity ,often resorting to heavy manual labor to accomplish what farmers in other countries would do with modern equipment.
Agriculture is the primary industry in this northern province that, like much of Cuba, appears a throwback to another century. Weather-worn field workers produce fruits, potatoes, rice, bananas, vegetables, sugar cane and more.
Artemisa is supported by its two cement factories, several food processing facilities and major power plants. Goods produced in the province are shipped from the northern port of Mariel, a mainstay of the northern coastline.
Artemisia is one of two new provinces in the north. Formerly, the province was included in La Habana Province. On January 1, 2011, Artemisa and Mayabeque were officially declared new provinces by government. The city of Artemisa is the largest city and municipality in old La Habana Province.
The new province includes eight western municipalities and three eastern municipalities that were formerly components of Pinar del Rio in La Habana Province. Artemisa province is larger than Havana City. The regional capital has 44,000 residents. The province is also home to the Cuban Air Force with a base at San Antonio de los Banos. The western naval base of the Cuban Navy at Cabanos Bay is home of the country’s navy. Antonio Maceo, the country’s Military Academy, is located in Caimito.
During Castro’s Revolution, Artemisa served Castro well as many of his most ardent resistance fighters grew up in the region. These fighters were instrumental in the successful attack on Santiago de Cuba known as Cuartel Moncada in 1953 and again in the triumphant guerilla campaign launched by the Sierra Maestra Guerillas from 1956-1959. The Martyr’s Mausoleum (Mausoleo de los Martires) is one of several National Monuments located in the city of Artemisa.
It is believed that the name Artemisa was either derived from the Greek goddess Artemis or that it was named after Spanish Ragweed. The town was founded by Francisco de Arrango y Parreno.
Locals are likely to refer to the capital as Jardin de Cuba, the Garden of Cuba, because of its rich red soil and wondrous crops. The red soil often leads Cubans to describe Artemisa as Villa Roja (Red Village).
For many centuries, Artemisa was one of Cuba’s most abundant regions. Yet, slavery was a major industry in the area and evidence of the former lucrative slave trade still exists in the province today. Remains of the Cafetal Angerona symbolize the region’s once undeniable prosperity. The cafetal belonged to German entrepreneur Cornelio Souchay who fell in love with a Haitian slave, Ursula Lambert. The couple resided in secret at the cafetal together despite the social taboos of the time.
The patron saint of Artemisa is Saint Mark the Evangelist. A church in the saint’s honor presides over el Parque in Artemisa’s center. Father Antonio Rodriquez Dias raised money from German supporters and renovated the church which is active today.
Artemisa is another of those areas that is not included in most People-to-People tours but which could be included in a customized tour. If a wide-reaching, personalized tour of Cuba interests you, contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com or call 305 -987-0442.
Travelguidcuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers. Complete Cuba People-to-People tour is licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.