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Cuba: 505 Years of the Capital of the Caribbean

The city of Santiago de Cuba, with a history is more than five centuries old, consolidates its positions as the capital of the Caribbean, favored by its geographical position, heritage and history.

Founded by Governor Diego Velázquez, the city was the Cuban capital until 1607, after it was hit by countless disasters, from an earthquake that devastated it in 1675 to the predatory action of corsairs and pirates.

The city, in its 505 years, has witnessed several events, from the end of the so-called Spanish-Cuban-American war to the assault on the Moncada Garrisons, which began the definitive stage in liberation in the country.

Downtown Santiago de Cuba, with an extraordinary variety of museums, is the old Plaza de Armas (Arms Square), which is the heart of the city and is known as Céspedes Park, as a tribute to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who is also known as the Father of the Cuban Homeland.

In its surroundings, visitors can find innumerable samples of colonial architectural art, with works such as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, which was built in the 16th century and keeps a tablet painting in its museum rooms, which many experts consider the oldest in Cuba.

As a peculiar element, there is the oldest house in Cuba, which belonged to Diego Velázquez and was also the Casa de Contratación y Fundición of the Spanish Crown, built of stone blocks and which still shows some of its original elements such as the ceilings of Moorish shutters and lattices.

Caridad del Cobre Sanctuary. Image of the Virgin
Caridad del Cobre Sanctuary. Entrance
Caridad del Cobre Sanctuary. Façade

Among the institutions and museums, the Bacardi Museum stands out as the oldest in Cuba, with a collection of weapons that recall the independence struggles in the country, articles that belonged to Cuban aborigines and even Inca and Egyptian mummies.

In the surroundings of the city, the so-called Gran Piedra, registered as the largest rock in the world by the Guinness Book of Records, stands majestic and imposing, with its nearly 70,000 tons at about 1,220 meters above the sea level.

Likewise, vacationers can visit the Baconao Park, a biosphere reserve that is famous for its stone zoo in the Prehistory Valley and complemented by attractions such as the Transport Museum, the Aquarium and the Sculpture Meadow.

It also has the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca, also known as Morro de Santiago de Cuba, a fortress that is part of the city's defensive system, although the military impact was minimal due to a delay of several dozen years in its completion.

Its main designer and architect was the famous Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, who was responsible in previous years for the fortification works in San Cristóbal de La Habana.

The fortress is integrated into La Socapa, La Avanzada and La Estrella in the defensive system of the bay of Santiago, and all this is considered the greatest and most complete example of European Renaissance military engineering in the Caribbean.

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