Seven sites worth visiting in eastern Cuba


I loved this article by Kim Honey (The Star), who reviews seven sites in eastern Cuba, around Santiago de Cuba and Holguin. As this article stresses, visiting these areas provide an opportunity to learn about some of Cuba’s most interesting historical sites and culture. Honey writes:

The eastern provinces of Cuba are known mainly for their beaches, but the cities and towns offer fascinating insights into the history, religion, music, art, and architecture of the country. Santiago de Cuba, the cradle of the Cuban Revolution, is where Fidel Castro mounted his first attack, delivered his first speech as leader and where his ashes rest at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. Here are seven things I saw in and around Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.

El Cobre: A shrine for Catholics and Santerians alike, this basilica outside Santiago de Cuba receives pilgrims who deliver sunflowers, gifts and prayers to either to the Virgin of Charity, which is actually a venerated statue of the Virgin Mary, or Oshun, the Santerian saint of love. They include a rosary and crown from the pope, Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize medal (not on display), and signed baseballs, trophies, a tangle of stethoscopes, and even a pair of ballet shoes.

Emilio Bacardi Moreau Municipal Museum: Named after a former mayor of Santiago de Cuba and heir to the Bacardi rum fortune, the museum contains a fascinating mix of art, archeology, and historical artifacts, some from Bacardi’s personal collection. You will find Prado-donated paintings and Indigenous pottery, as well as a pirate’s tombstone, a real Egyptian mummy, and an electrified, wooden torpedo built by mambises — Cubans fighting for independence in the late 1800s — to attack Spanish barques.

Moncada Barracks: The bullet-riddled walls are a backdrop for children playing outdoors at the school attached to the Historic Museum of July 26 in Santiago de Cuba. The scene of Fidel Castro’s unsuccessful 1953 attack on president Fulgencio Batista’s army, the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, it contains bloodstained uniforms of gunned-down rebels and pictures of torture devices. Castro and his brother Raul escaped, but were later captured and jailed for two years.

San Pedro de la Roca Castle: This multi-level stone fortress was built in the early 1600s on a rocky cliff overlooking Santiago de Cuba Bay to repel marauders as well as explorers from the Netherlands, England, and France looking for a foothold in the Caribbean. Designed by an engineer from Milan, it is recognized by UNESCO as a unique example of Renaissance military architecture. A series of terraces linked by stairs lead up to the queen’s balcony, where a cannon is fired each day at sunset.

1910 Restaurant and Bar: In Holguin, waiters ferry house specialties such as charcoal-grilled octopus in garlic sauce and pork flambéed with white rum from kitchen to table. But I am here for the Uruguayan steak, which a Holguin-born chef in Toronto urged me to try. Basically a Cordon Bleu steak — beef pounded flat, rolled up with cheese and ham inside, breaded and deep-fried — it is a substantial dish that chef Marino de la Cruz makes 20 to 30 times a week and costs about $25.

Loma de la Cruz: An important Catholic monument in Holguin, the first wooden cross on the hill was placed there by a friar who carried it up the 261-metre incline himself in 1790, though it has since been replaced twice. You can drive to the summit, but the hike up the hill is made easier by the construction of 464 stairs, complete with rest stops with benches every few flights. Besides its religious significance, it offers a sweeping 360-degree view of the city at its feet.

Cayo Bariay: After Christopher Columbus sailed into Bariay Bay to discover Cuba in 1492, he claimed it was the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen. The Italian explorer encountered now-long-extinct Indigenous people, though a trace of their culture lingers in the language — the Cohiba cigar’s name is derived from Cohoba, an Aboriginal deity. The Bariay National Monument Park has information about artifacts dug up on site, as well as an art installation and Indigenous dance performances.

[Accessed via Cuban Art News.] For full article, see

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