Sancti Spiritus: Timeless Tranquility
Sancti Spiritus looks like a Norman Rockwell’s depiction of a quaint colonial-era city in Cuba but it is impossible to duplicate the history and wondrous natural environs in this area. Sancti Spiritus is the capital of a province carrying the same name. This is another destination that most People-to-People Cuba tours feel may not have mass appeal. However, visitors to this city are rarely disappointed with the sights, sounds, natural habitat and culture.
Everything that represents Cuba’s past, present and future exists in Sancti Spiritus and has since its founding by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar in 1514. The settlement, whose name is Latin for “Holy Spirit,” is one of the oldest settlements in Cuba. Would you like to learn more about some of Cuba’s surprising destinations? Contact Info@travelguidecuba.com.
Francisco Iznaga, one of the wealthiest Basque landowners during Cuba’s first 30 years of colonization, came from western Cuba but was elected mayor of the city in 1540. Iznaga established a long and powerful lineage that grew in Sancti Spiritus for centuries. His descendants fought for Cuba’s independence and for the annexation to the US from 1820 through Castro’s revolution.
The Iznaga family fled Cuba before the Revolution. In 1961, the government took possession of the palatial estate and manor belonging to the Valle Iznaga family. Today, the primary residence serves as the Museo de Arte Colonial and is one of the most intriguing landmarks in Sancti Spiritus.
The mansion was home to one of two American-made Grand Pianos in Cuba. The impressive home features a spectacular music room, French gilded mirrors, Italian marble tables, an expansive collection of Limoges porcelain, several Baccarat crystal chandeliers and many original artworks. 90 percent of the displayed items were present in the residence when the government took possession. The wealth and broad-based influence of the Iznaga family has an undeniable presence in this amazing museum.
Sancti Spiritus is located in central Cuba. The natural barriers include the Sierra de Jatibonico that covers the entire north of the province and the Bahia de Buenavista. One of the wonders of this region is the wildlife and horticulture. In many ways, the rich landscape is virtually undiscovered.
Guided hikes through the Ecotour or at Villa San Jose del Lago are all People-to-People Cuba nature lovers will need to understand the power of Cuba’s rich natural history. A three-hour excursion along the Rio Jatibonico will include a one kilometer hike through the fascinating tropical savannah to the ruins of an old slave wall. At Cueva de Valdes, an 800 meter walk through a semi-deciduous woodland to the entrance of a cave was once used to launch military operations during the Revolution. Does Cuba’s nature have allure for you? Contact Info@travelguidecuba.com.
General Maximo Gomez waged war through the Sierra de Jatibonico during the Spanish-Cuban-American War. The hills later housed Camilo Cienfuegos’ rebel army in 1958. Noted sculptor Jose Delarra’s remarkable work remembers the freedom fighter.
The signature of Sancti Spiritus is one of the national monument bridges that traverses the Yayabo River. Built in 1815, the clay bricks detail five arcs with the highest arc 9 meters high. Probably the most picturesque bridge in Cuba, the landmark only covers 85 meters. It was designed to carry pedestrians and carriages across the river. The best place to view the bridge and a popular tourist site is the Quinta Santa Elena.
At the heart of Sancti Spiritus is the Serafin Sanchez, not your typical Cuban square. In the character of the city, this square is understated which of course makes it singularly refreshing. The square has metal chairs that are usually occupied by senior gentlemen likely to be enjoying a cigar.
Flirtatious young men and women walk and rest on the edge of the square. The Casa de la Cultura’s wonderful music travels from the south side of the square across the plaza. The beautifully Hellenic columned Biblioteca Provincial Ruben Martinez Villena, built in 1929 by the Progress Society, sits majestically next to the Casa de Cultura.
On the northern side of the square sits what was once the city most glamorous hotel, La Perla. Today, government has restored it and converted the hotel to a three-tiered shopping center. The magnolia-colored former hotel offers a glimpse at the glory that prevailed here in earlier generations.
Sancti Spiritus’ Teatro principal rest quietly alongside the landmark bridge. The theater was built in 1876. Sun-bleached cobblestone streets run from the theater up to the city square. Along the way, visit Calle Llano where elderly women still sell live chickens door-to-door. This street is lined with color as the homes are sky blue or lemon-yellow.
Sancti Spiritus is home to approximately 134,000 residents. The municipality is divided into 16 barrios. The city is also home to the Sancti Spiritus Gallos baseball tram, an annual competitor in Cuba’s most accomplished baseball league.
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.