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Cuba: Guantanamo, a Land among Rivers

Guantanamo Cuba's easternmost province, stands out for its natural wealth in correspondence with its aboriginal name, which means "land among rivers".

As a key element, Guantanamo holds Baracoa, the first village founded in Cuba by Governor Diego Velázquez. The village also became Cuba's first capital and first archbishopric.

In that region, the natural landscape is complemented by a 575-meter flat mountain known as Yunque de Baracoa (Baracoa's Anvil), due to its resemblance with that tool used by blacksmiths.

Several water currents run through the territory, including the Toa River, which is considered the biggest river in Cuba and which has several waterfalls, being the most famous the one known as El Saltadero, which is 17 meters high.

Several French settlers arrived in that Cuban region and developed cocoa, fruit and coffee plantations in the mountainous areas.

In fact, Cuba's westernmost tip is barely 80 kilometers from Haiti, separated by the Windward Passage, but close enough to see its lights on a clear night.

Yunque de Baracoa (Baracoa`s Anvil)
River and mountains in Baracoa.
Baracoa Mountains.

There are many Jamaican immigrants in Guantanamo, so many constructions are similar to those built in the French neighborhoods of New Orleans, in the US state of Louisiana.

As a peculiar element, the province still holds vestiges of indigenous settlements in the zone of La Caridad de los Indios, in Manuel Támes municipality, which is an aspect of great cultural and ethnical interest.

Visitors are fascinated by an atmosphere of memories from the Spanish colonial period, including the famous Cruz de La Parra, made by the Spaniards with local precious timber during their first voyage to the Americas and used by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to officiate mass.

In addition, Guantanamo has a huge bay that is considered the third largest bay in the world, and the mountainous area covers 75 percent of the territory, including the Sagua-Baracoa Mountain Range, one of the largest and most attractive in the country, is located.

In the north, there is a narrow coastal strip with coconut trees and cut by the mouths of several rivers, while in the south, there is a coastal zone with alluvial valleys where agriculture is practiced.

The Maisí Plateau, which has one of the world's best-preserved systems of marine terraces, as well as several beautiful caves, is in the east.

Guantanamo is also the birthplace of several artistic expressions, like the musical genres known as Changüí, Nengón and Quiribá, the dance known as French Tumba, which was brought by Haitian immigrants, and plastic arts and literature.

Some buildings of interest are the Parochial Church of Santa Catalina, the Former Spanish Garrison, the Policarpo Pineda Library, which used to be the town hall, and the Palacio Salcines Museum, which was the residence of the prominent local architect Leticio Salcines and whose eclectic architectural style makes it the most representative house in the city.

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