Cuba

Camagüey

Camagüey was founded as Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe in 1514, by Spanish colonists led by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at a location now known as Nuevitas on the northern coast. It was one of the seven original settlements (villas) founded in Cuba by the Spanish. The settlement was moved inland in 1528 to the site of a Taino village named Camagüey. The village may have been named for a local chief, or perhaps for a tree endemic to the region.

The new city was built with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys. There are many blind alleys and forked streets that lead to squares of different sizes. One explanation is that this was done by design, to make the city easier to defend from any raiders; by the same version, the reason that there is only one exit from the city was that should pirates ever return and succeed in entering the city, it would be possible for local inhabitants to entrap and kill them. However, locals dispute this reasoning as a myth, asserting that in truth the city developed without planning, and that winding streets developed out of everybody wanting to stay close to their local church (the city has 15 of them).

In July 2008, the old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(Pictures taken in 2001 and 2002)

Cienfuegos

The Historic Centre of Cienfuegos, is located in the city of Cienfuegos in Cuba. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

While visited by Columbus in 1494, the area was first settled by pirates and freebooters beginning in the 1600s. Early settlers, often referred to as “buccaneers”, raised cattle and made jerky to supply to the privateers and others who sought refuge in the bay. By 1740 they were raising tobacco as well.

In 1742 King Philip V of Spain built Fort Jagua to suppress the pirates’ use of Cienfuegos Bay. The city was formally founded on 22 April 1819 by French and Spanish settlers under the command of Don Luis De Clouet y Favrot. The streets were laid out essentially north-south, east-west, forming square blocks. Today, the city centre still retains eclectic architecture from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, much with neoclassical decoration.

Havana

Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Havana was founded by the Spanish in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana. It became a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. In the 17th century, it was one of the main shipbuilding centers. The city was built in baroque and neoclassical styles. Many buildings have fallen into ruin in the latter half of the 20th century, but a number are being restored. The narrow streets of Old Havana contain many buildings, accounting for perhaps as many as one-third of the approximately 3,000 buildings found in Old Havana. It is the ancient city formed from the port, the official center and the Plaza de Armas.

In 1555, Old Havana was destroyed and burned by the French corsair Jacques de Sores. The pirate had taken Havana easily, plundering the city and burning much of it to the ground. After limiting the scarce defenders, De Sores left without obtaining the enormous wealth that he was hoping to find in Havana. The city remained devastated and set on fire. Since the incident, the Spanish brought soldiers and started building fortresses and walls to protect the city. Castillo de la Real Fuerza was the first fortress built; initiated in 1558, the construction was overseen by the engineer Bartolomé Sanchez.

Old Havana resembles Cadiz and Tenerife. Alejo Carpentier called it “de las columnas”(of the columns), but it could also be named for the gateways, the revoco, the deterioration and the rescue, the intimacy, the shade, the cool, the courtyards… In her there are all the big ancient monuments, the forts, the convents and churches, the palaces, the alleys, the arcade, the human density.

Trinidad

Trinidad is a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus, central Cuba. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.

Trinidad was founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar under the name Villa de la Santísima Trinidad.

Hernán Cortés recruited men for his expedition from Juan de Grijalva’s home in Trinidads, and Sancti Spíritus, at the start of his 1518 expedition. This included Pedro de Alvarado and his five brothers. After ten days, Cortes sailed, the alcayde Francisco Verdugo failing to prevent Cortes from leaving, despite orders from Diego Velázquez.

Francisco Iznaga, a Basque landowner in the southern portion of Cuba during the first 30 years of the colonization of Cuba, was elected Mayor of Bayamo in 1540. Iznaga was the originator of a powerful lineage which finally settled in Trinidad where the Torre Iznaga is. His descendants fought for the independence of Cuba and for annexation to the U.S., from 1820 to 1900.

Trinidad is one of the best-preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time when the sugar trade was the main industry in the region.

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