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Santiago de Cuba

Why?

Because it has recently been in the news for becoming Fidel Castro’s final resting place.

Known as the Cuban city with the hottest atmosphere in the Caribbean, Santiago is also a melting pot of cultures. It is the "cradle of the Cuban revolution" because it was the scene of the first assault launched by Castro against Batista in 1953.

Enveloped by the Sierra Maestra, this city was founded in 1515 and became the first capital of the country. History and culture are therefore omnipresent in this city, which is located in the south of Cuba, on the opposite side from Havana.

To see 

The Santa Ifigenia cemetery. This was classified as a national site in 1979. It is the final residence of Fidel Castro and several other great names in the history of Cuban independence, including José Marti, recognized as the father of Cuban independence.

San Pedro de la Roca del Morro. A massive construction of fortifications suspended on a rocky promontory above the port of Santiago, this intricate group of forts and batteries is the best-preserved example of Hispano-American military architecture of Italian origin and in the Renaissance style. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Emilio Bacardi Moreau Museum. With its beautiful white facade with neoclassical elements, in its three rooms the museum houses a vast collection of private works of the member of the Bacardi family known worldwide as producer of rum. Do not miss the Egyptian and Peruvian mummies in the basement!

Next to the museum, the Boffil Callejon is a set of replicas of santiagueras, colonial facades of houses from the 18th and 19th centuries and is worth the view.

The museum and house of Diego Velazquez (the first governor of Cuba and founder of the city). The ensemble presents architectural and decorative elements from the colonial era with a Moorish influence. It is the oldest manor house in the city.

Cespedes Park. This is the heart of the historic center of Santiago, where hundreds of people gathered on January 2, 1959 to hear Fidel Castro deliver his legendary revolutionary speech from a balcony of the city hall located on the other side of the street.

The Sanctuary Cobre, with its Virgin of Caridad (to 16 km of Santiago). In 1998, Pope John Paul II crowned the Virgin and placed in his hands a rosary of gold. Through an ingenious device, this virgin has the peculiarity of turning to the faithful when the mass begins and once the galley is finished she turns back. Her dress, embroidered with gold threads by Spanish cloisters, is spectacular.

To experiment 

The carnival 

This is a long tradition dating back to the beginning of the 20th century and incorporates the beliefs and artistic practices of the African slaves who celebrated their patron saints during colonial times. It is therefore not surprising that the Carnival here is not celebrated at Mardi Gras, but rather around the feasts of Santa Christina, Santa Ana and Santiago, patron saint of the city, all celebrated from July 24 to 26. And the celebrations go on until the end of the month. Two weeks of music, dance, street entertainment... Children are even entitled to their own "Carnival Infantil" with parades, jugglers, etc.

The Conga

This happens on July 25. The tradition dates from the colonial period, and at the end of the seventeenth century, the authorities who decided to incorporate the African slaves into the feast. The event starts at the cathedral after mass when Conga players gathered, followed by drummers, bells, Chinese bugles and other instruments, and took to the streets. A procession of hundreds of people dancing, singing and improvising in a spontaneous way follows.

To taste 

The rum of the famous Bacardi Empire, of course! And why not at the Barrita La Casa del Ron, right next to the old factory?

The local specialty is an ajiaco (spicy potato stew) tasted at the El Morro Restaurante Palmares, where a chair indicates that Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, once ate an omelet here. Near the Morro, with its large thatched roof patio, with a view overlooking the Caribbean Sea. If it's your lucky day, a guitarist trio can even accompany your meal.

Traditional dishes from Cuba: beef dishes, meat stew, cod, jigote, chili sauce, meat pies, seafood donuts, root vegetables served with garlic sauce, congrí (goat and ayaca stew). And there are nougats and rice pudding to finish the meal on a sweet note.

Not to mention the best Arabica coffee, grown here in the plantations of the Sierra Maestra.

Do not miss

Santeria kiosk on Calle Marti is a curiosity in the city. These are small kiosks reserved for practitioners of this religion. They sell chickens to sacrifice, candles, and all that is needed for the ceremony.

A Tumba Francesa performance. A combination of Haitian and French musical traditions, where percussion instruments, singing and dancing are combined. It originated in Santiago and was recognized by UNESCO as intangible heritage in 2003.

Santiago nightlife with:

The Casa de la Trova discotheque, vibrating to the rhythm of Afro-Cuban tunes thanks to local artists.
The Salon del Son with its local fauna that enjoys salsa and bolero.
The Casa de la Musica, whose doors do not close until six in the morning.

To sleep

Classy: Melia Santiago de Cuba

To the beach: Hotel Brisas las Galeones

For the terrace and its good value for money: the Casa Grandaé

And there are also the natural parks of the Sierra Maestra mountain range to explore and, of course, the beach!

Christiane Théberge

Santa Ifigenia cemetery

San Pedro de la Roca del Morro

City hall and its famous balcony

The Cathedral

At the carnival

The Virgin of Caridad

 

 

   

 

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