Story of the 7 Cuban jewels
The first seven Spanish settlements that the Spaniards founded in Cuba laid the foundations for for the valuable heritage handed down to Cubans today. Architecture, religion, the dance, art, literature, the oral tradition and even the racial mixture of today’s Cubans were the result of that tremendous blending of Indians, Africans, Frenchmen, Asians and Spaniards over the course of time.
The first Spanish settlements drew on the best trends of the Old World – but also on the tropical warmth of the Caribbean.
Seven Spanish settlements were founded one after another, each in a search for good land that would bring Spain quick richness. At first they were alike; the differences among them that made each of them unique appeared later on.
Story of the 7 Cuban jewels
1) Villa de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion de Baracoa
Diego Velazquez founded Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion de Baracoa on the northern coast of Cuba at a place that the indians called Baracoa – which means highland in the Arawakan language. The Governor immediately declared it to be both a biospheric and the political and ecclesiastical capital of the island and ordered Cuba’s first cathedral to be built here.
Even though the settlement prosperity did not last long, Baracoa is still recognised as the first spanish settlement to be established in Cuba. In 1838 Queen Maria Cristina de Habsburg- Lorraine of Spain gave it the coat of arms that is still preserved here. Both coat of arms and the Parra Cross are historic relics.
Located in the eastern province of Guantanamo, Baracoa is richly endowed by nature. Its natural setting is one of the most beautiful in Cuba and is favorite of those who seek unique places and fauna. Baracoa has more then 60 archaeological sites that contain evidence of the Tainos, who that lived in the area at the time of the Spaniard’s arrival but are now extinct.
You can fly to Baracoa from any Cuban province or come by road from the city of Guantanamo, over a viaduct called La Farola – an engineering feature that is literally a cliff-hanger.
2) San Salvador de Bayamo
With different styles of architecture, Bayamo has public squares, mansions and a very old cathedral. The former Monastery of Santo Domingo (now a theatre) is still standing in the original nucleus of the city.
Bayamo, which has been declared a national monument , is the cradle of Cuban nationality. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the Father of this Country, was born here; it played an important part in the first Republic in Arms during Cuba’s Wars of Independence against Spanish colonialism; and the notes of Cuba’s National Anthem were first heard in its streets.
The people of Bayamo have maintained the tradition of using old, colonial-style horse drawn carriages. Driving through Bayamo in one of those carriages as the ladies and gentlemen of the 19th century used to do, enjoying the passing scene, is a delightful experience that you won’t find elsewhere.
3) Villa de La Santissima Trinidad
The settlement of La Santissima Trinidad was founded in the central part of the island in the first few days of January 1514. Soon was to become the starting point for expeditions conquest South America.
Its benign climate, the nearness of the Caribbean Sea and the fertility of its land made it a most desirable place. The city urban architecture was well adapted to the tropical heat and bright sunlight of the Caribbean. Wooden balustrades, large windows, spacious homes with arcades and continuos balconies are typical characteristics.
Trinidad had its heyday – based on sugarcane – in the first few decades of the 19th century. However. its architecture continued to obey the percepts of the 18th century. Trinidad has now one of the most perfect, most beautiful and best preserved architectural groups in the Americas – leading to its being called “the museum city of Cuba”. Unesco declared both the original nucleus of the city and nearby San Luis de los Ingenios Valley, with its amazing Iznaga Tower, to be parts of world heritage.
La Canchanchara, the typical dring of Trinidad, is made of honey, lime juice and high wine and dates from Cuba’s War of Independence. It has a pleasant refreshing taste.
4) Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe
Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe (now the city of Camaguey) was founded at Guincho Point on February 1514. Isolated in the middle of a vast unpopulated territory and with no means of communication, the settlement developed slowly up to the beginning of the 17th century, when, thanks, to the upsurge in cattle raising, it became one of the richest places in Cuba. the buildings facing on San Juan de Dios Square are the best representatives of colonial period.
The city’s design is the most asymmetrical of the cuban cities. Many of its streets are labyrinthine, and in some places of the spider web it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. The city is called “the city of large earthenware jars” because, at the beginnings the area was very dry, and large earthenware jars were used to store water fresh and pure for a long time.
Santa Lucia is the main beach resort on the northern coast of Camaguey, where there are around 12 miles of fine white sandy beaches. It is protected by a beautiful coral reef, the longest one in the Caribbean, that is just a short distance offshore, an ideal place for scuba diving.
5) Sancti Spiritus
Diego Valazquez founded this settlement on a bank of the Yayabo River in 1514. These days, Sancti Spiritus is a colonial – style city with centuries of traditions embodied in large houses, churches, museums, old streets and walls, all of which encourages visitors to learn more about its inhabitants customs and way of life.
This territory has may attractions for nature lovers. They include Topes de Collantes, Caguanes National Park and the stone cays. The are around San Jose del Lago is famous for its medicinal-mineral waters, and Alturas de Banao has impressive scenery and lush vegetation.
Music in Sancti Spiritus has a distinctive note. The inhabitants most generous contribution to Cuba’s culture is the ballad, with both important singers and songs becoming part of the nation’s heritage. The Santiago Espritituano, a carnival whose origins go back to religious celebrations in 1655, is the oldest of the city’s traditional festivities.
6) Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is justly famed fro being the city with the greatest Caribbean ambience in Cuba – not just because of its geographic location, lapped by the warm waters of Caribbean Sea, but also because of its amalgam of cultures : Spanish, African, French, Haitian and Antillean in general.
Many say that bolero was created in Santiago de Cuba, because this is where Pepe Sanchez who wrote the first piece of this genre that arose at the end of the19th century, was born.
The inhabitants of Santiago de Cuba proudly call it “the capital of history” and a heroic city. Twenty -nine generals in Cuba’s Wars of Independence were born here.
Santiago de Cuba contains the oldest house in the Americas, which was originally the residence of Governor Diego Velazquez in the 16th century. It is now the Museum of Historic Ambiance.