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Sancti Spiritus: The Perfect Combination of History and Tourism

Cuba's central province of Sancti Spiritus, which holds two of the first seven villages founded by the Spanish conquistadors on the largest Antillean Island, has become a perfect combination of history and tourism.

Founded in the first half of 1514, the then called Villa del Espíritu Santo, or Village of the Holy Ghost, was originally erected on the banks of the Tuinicú River, and was moved to the banks of the Yayabo River in 1552.

The fourth of seven villages founded in Cuba by the Spaniards in the 16th century, Sancti Spiritus treasures architectural, historic, traditional and cultural values, as well as natural beauties that create an attractive and peculiar combination.

Three construction styles converge in the city's historic heart, where more than 1,000 concrete and adobe edifices boast a high architectural value.

The Spanish baroque is present in the spacious portals of centuries-old mansions, in a structure in which a big plaza with a church formed part of a classic design in colonial times, a trend that evolved into a construction method that was adjusted to the country's conditions.

The neoclassic style, which reached its peak in the 18th century, is present in ornamented doors and windows with beautiful iron-wrought railings aimed at both protecting and embellish the houses.

The region also holds the ancient village of Trinidad, the third of its kind in the country, also founded in 1514 and whose colonial architecture is one of the best preserved in the American continent.

However, visitors to that small city focus their interest in the lonely Iznaga Tower, erected in the first half of the 19th century as a lookout with a utilitarian end.

The bell on top the 45-meter-tall, seven-story tower was used to call the slaves to start and finish working in the region's sugarcane fields, in addition to marking the beginning of prayers to the Holy Virgin.

Another function of the monumental tower, which is also an excellent place to enjoy the view of the San Luis or Sugarmill Valley, where over 44 sugar mills were built and was declared World's Heritage by UNESCO, was to warn about fires and slave escapes.

According to legend, in order to win the love of a lady, the Iznaga brothers (Pedro and Alejo), two rich farmers at the time, decided that each of them would embark in a construction work, so the lady would choose the one who built the biggest one.

Pedro drilled a 28-meter-deep well, which is still in use for the benefit of local dwellers, while Alejo decided to build the tower.

However, another legend links the tower to Alejo's unfaithful wife, so he built it to lock her up on the top floor.

Traditions aside, this province in central Cuba complements its tourist offers with modern hotels that respect the architectural setting of its oldest towns, which feature cobblestone streets and houses with red-tile roofs.

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