Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1515 by Spaniard Diego Velazquez. It has been ruled by various world powers over the centuries and boasts a history influenced by Spanish, African, French, British and Haitian cultures.
The vibrant culture, rhythmic energy, and fascinating history are all traits that define the city of Santiago de Cuba. For travellers looking to explore the history of Cuba’s second largest city will find the following list useful.
1. Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Cathedral
The Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Cathedral is an impressive landmark and a must-see on your walk around Santiago. There have been a series of cathedrals on this spot since the city’s founding, but the one that stands today was finished in 1922. Notably, Diego Velazquez, the first colonial governor is buried here. It was for the city’s 500th founding anniversary that the church was restored.
2. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
This majestic fort stands strong looking out over the ocean. It was named a UNESCO heritage site in 1997 because of its role as one of the most historically significant important defense points in Cuba. Be sure to walk through the small museum inside the fort to learn a more about its history.
2. Parque Alameda
Parque Alameda is a narrow, lovely park in the centre of the Malecon. It is surrounded by an old clock tower, cigar factory, and customs house. It has always been considered a meeting place of sorts. Today, it is a local hangout routinely populated with people checking the internet, groups listening to music, and kids playing on the playground.
3. Casa Velazquez / Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano
The former residence of Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez, this is the oldest house still standing in Cuba. The magnificently preserved early colonial building dates from 1522, was restored in the late 1960s, and became a museum in 1970. It currently houses the Museo de Ambiente Historic Cubano filled with furnishings and decorations from the 16th century.
4. Home of Jose Maria Heredia
The birthplace of Jose Maria Heredia, one of Cuba’s greatest Romantic poets, is now a small museum focusing on his life and work. Like many Cuban independence advocates, he was forced into exile. Appropriately, his most famous work “Ode to Niagara” is inscribed outside his home (the poem compares Niagara Falls to his feelings of longing for home).
5. Birthplace of Antonio Maceo
Antonio Maceo, known as the Bronze Titan, is considered one of the greatest Cuban war generals. He was part of the Independence Army and became a hero during the wars that ended Spanish rule over Cuba. He is still seen as a symbol of determined bravery. His birthplace has been turned into a museum and contains exhibits highlighting his life.
6. Revolution Square
If you want to see more of Antonio Maceo, visit Santiago de Cuba’s Revolution Square. The square is home to an impressive statue of Antonio Maceo sitting astride his horse. It is surrounded by 23 machetes standing upright, which make reference to the date March 23, 1878 when the fight for independence was renewed. Underneath is a small museum containing information about Antonia Maceo’s life.
7. Museo Histórico 26 de Julio
This art deco building became part of legend when the military barracks were attacked on 26th July 1953 by a group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. After the Revolution, the barracks were converted into a school called “Ciudad Escolar 26 de Julio”. In 1967, a museum was opened near gate 3; it is appropriately located where the main attack took place. The museum provides information about the revolution and the M-26 struggle.
Travel With Us
For information on arranging a tour with Vamos Cuba, check out our 8-day tour of Cuba: https://vamoscuba.co.uk/cuba-tours-8-days-private-tour-essential-cuba