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Weekly report on Cuba's tourism industry
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Five Centuries in Eastern Cuba

The eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, founded in 1515 by Governor Diego Velázquez, is close to celebrating its 500th anniversary as the capital of the Caribbean, favored by its geographic location and its centenarian history.

Santiago de Cuba was one of the first seven villages founded in the country, and even its exceptional conditions influenced to declare it the first Cuban capital until 1556, when San Cristóbal de la Havana was designated as the country's capital.

The predating action of corsairs and pirates led in the late 16th Century to the construction of the fortress of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, which experts consider one of the most formidable defensive structures built by the Spanish conquistadors in the then called New World.

The fortress, along with La Socapa, La Avanzada and La Estrella, make up the defensive system of the Bay of Santiago, which is considered the largest and most complete example of European Renaissance military engineering in the Caribbean.

However, at the same time, it was the most useless fortification system, as construction works lasted nearly 200 years. In 1997, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the complex, which holds the Museum of Piracy, Humankind's Heritage Site.

In downtown Santiago de Cuba, which has a wide range of museums, is the former Arms Square, now known as Céspedes Park in honor of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who is considered the Father of the Cuban Homeland.

San Pedro de la Roca. Cannon battery
San Pedro de la Roca. Outside view
San Pedro de la Roca. Outside view

Of course, tourism also gains ground in the city, which will have a Leisure Center, a tourist product designed for families.

The first of its kind in the province, the Leisure Center will be located on Victoriano Garzón Avenue, in a large building known as Casa Blanca (White House), due to the color of its façade.

Other investments in tourism in 2015 include the project Los Caminos del Café (The Coffee Roads), which will link the ruins of the Archeological Landscape of the first coffee plantations in southeastern Cuba, which was declared Humankind's Heritage Site, as well as the remodeling of the Imperial hotel, which has an eclectic architectural style.

Also in Santiago's downtown is the oldest house in Cuba, which belonged to Diego Velázquez and was built of stone blocks. The house still shows some original elements such as the roof and Moorish latticework.

Among Santiago de Cuba's institutions and museums is the 100-year-old Bacardí Museum, which holds a collection of weapons from Cuba's struggles for independence, aboriginal artifacts, and even Inca and Egyptian mummies.

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