7 Historic Landmarks In Santiago de Cuba
Yordi’s hometown is also Dave’s favorite Cuban destination. A little less intimidating than Havana but filled with significant museums, history, music, art and surrounded by the Sierra Maestra, Cuba largest mountain chain, visitors are never at a loss of things to see, do, explore and experience. If you are interested in Cuba’s history and an undeniable culture of its own, Santiago, as the country’s first capital and largest city for many years, is the place to go.
The attractions in Santiago are compelling but guest quickly note that the real story of this intriguing city is the culture. A happy people by nature, Santiagoans enjoy life at the bottom of the island where the Caribbean and Bay of Santiago make the port the second most important in the country.
1. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca Morro – Ever watching over the Bay and harbor from its 60m high promontory, the fort was the creative genius of Giovanni Bautista Antonelli in 1587. The project cost prohibited construction until 1633. Finally complete almost 100 years later, there is plenty of history to see. Let your imagination run wild as you enjoy one of the most spectacular views in all of Cuba. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Castillo is available for tours seven days a week. Taxis or buses regularly service the area.
2. Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion – An architectural marvel, this magnificent cathedral is Yordi’s favorite church and makes a meaningful statement about the people of Santiago and their culture. Ideally situated at Parque Cespedes, the city’s largest park, the cathedral features two neoclassical towers and houses the remains of Cuba’s first colonial governor, Diego Velasquez. As stunning as the exterior is, the interior is also a wonderful sanctuary with amenities like hand-carved choir stalls and the altar that commemorates the Virgen de la Caridad. If time permits, visit the open-air Balcon de Velasquez two blocks removed from the Cathedral.
3. Museo de la Clandestina – You will have a different view of the revolution after visiting this colonial-styled building that details the fight to overthrow Fulgencio Batistsa. Just across the street sits the home that housed Castro from 1931 to 1933 when he was studying in Santiago de Cuba. There is plenty of history here and tremendous views to be enjoyed.
4. Casa de Diego Velasquez – As the oldest surviving house in Cuba, this delicious museum is an active tourist haven. Occupied since 5122, this was the official residence of the country’s first governor. A late 1960’s restoration project reconstructed the ornate Andalusian styled façade with wooden lattice windows. Inaugurated in 1970 as the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano, the rooms of the former trading house now give testimony to the ornate furnishings of a prosperous Santiago residence. A tour will include the adjacent 19th century neoclassical residence.
5. Cuartel Moncada – Completed in 1938, this former barracks gave fair warning that Fidel Castro’s forces were capable of turning the table son the reigning powers. On July 26, 1953, Castro scored a surprising victory when more than 100 revolutionaries stormed the barracks that were filled with Batista troops. The barracks were converted to a school after the Revolution where Yordi began her education and training as an artist. A museum was constructed near gate 3 in 1967.
6. Museo Municipal Emilio Bacardi Moreau – Emilio Bacardi, the erstwhile rum entrepreneur, war hero and city mayor whose family was ousted after the Revolution, built this museum in 1899, making it one of the country’s oldest and most important landmarks. The museum includes many personal artifacts acquired and collected by Bacardi during a lifetime of travels. The weapons collection alone is worth the trip but the architecture and intricate design of the Grecian façade are mesmerizing. Fantastic art from the 19th century and the only Egyptian mummy in the country adds to the diverse offerings.
7. Cementerio Santa Ifigenia – Resting on Santiago de Cuba’s west side, this is the largest and most significant cemetery outside Havana. Created in 1868 to serve victims of the War of Independence and a concurrent outbreak of the yellow fever, more than 8,000 tombs are located here. The mausoleum honoring Jose Marti and built in 1951 is especially interesting but in a word, this cemetery is best described as ornate. A changing of the cemetery guard takes place every 30 minutes amid great pomp and ceremony.
Travel to Santiago de Cuba with Yordi and you will see these landmarks, interact with native Santiagoans and enjoy all the sights and sounds of Yordi’s hometown.
Travelguidecuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with International Expeditions, a licensed provider. This International Expedition 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.