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Destinations (5)

Havana Vieja

Havana Vieja 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 neoclassic style. Many buildings have fallen in ruin in the later 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. 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.

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Cien Fuegos

The area was called the Cacicazgo de Jagua by the early Spaniards, and was settled by indigenous people.

The city was settled by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana, led by Don Louis de Clouet, on April 22, 1819. Its original name wasFernardina de Jagua, in honor of Ferdinand VII of Spain. The settlement became a town (Spanish: Villa) in 1829, and a city in 1880. The city was subsequently named Cienfuegos, sharing the name with Cienfuegos, a Captain General in this time, in the island.

Near Cienfuegos was the scene of a battle on May 11, 1898, between American marines who attempted to sever underwater Spanish communication lines and the Spanish defenders.

During the Cuban Revolution the city saw an uprising against Fulgencio Batista and was bombed, on September 5, 1957.

In 1969 and 1970, Soviet Union naval vessels visited the city. This appeared to be in violation of the Kennedy-Khrushchev agreements of 1962. However, there was no notice given by the United States, and no confrontation ensued.

Attractions

Castillo de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Jagua - fortress
Arco de Triunfo - the only Arco de Triunfo in Cuba
Cathedral de la Purisma Concepción - cathedral with stained glass work, built 1833-1869.
Delfinario - dolphins and sea lions in a saltwater lagoon
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos - 97 hectares of botanic garden
Museo Provincial - furniture and porcelain museum
Palacio de Valle - built 1913–1917 in neo-gothic style
Palmira Yorubá Pantheon - museum of religious afro-catholic syncretism
Parque José Martí - park in Plaza de Armas
University of Cienfuegos "Carlos Rafael Rodríguez" (UCF) - the province's secondary education institution.
Rancho Luna Beach

Sunset at Rancho Luna Beach
Nicho

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Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba was the hometown of poet José María Heredia. It houses a museum that displays the extensive art collection of the Bacardí family.

Santiago de Cuba is well known for its cultural life. Some of Cuba's most famous musicians, including Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Eliades Ochoa (all of whom participated in the Buena Vista Social Club) and trova composer Ñico Saquito (Benito Antonio Fernández Ortiz) were born in the city or in one of the villages surrounding it. They have contributed to the typical, country-like music of the city.

Furthermore, Santiago de Cuba is well known for its traditional dances, most notably son, from which salsa has been derived, and guaguancó, which is accompanied by percussion music only. The city is also well known for its Carnival, which is strangely enough celebrated in July. During Carnival, traditional conga music is played in the streets on a traditional pentatonic trumpet, called the trompeta china.


Children Playing Chess on the Street - Santiago de Cuba
A relatively high number of residents of the city adhere to Afro-Cuban religions, most notably santería. The city hosts an important community of descendants from Haitian immigrants from the 19th century. Some aspects of the religious "vodún" heritage of the city can be traced back to this community.

In the city there are multiple architectural styles, from Baroque to neoclassical. Of special interest are the wooded parks, the steep streets, colonial buildings with huge windows and crowded balconies. Preserved historical treasures include the first home in the Americas, the first cathedral in Cuba, the first copper mine opened in the Americas and the first Cuban museum.

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Havana Modern

Many high-rise office buildings, and apartment complexes, along with some hotels built in the 1950s dramatically altered the skyline. Modernism, therefore, transformed much of the city and should be noted for its individual buildings of high quality rather than its larger key buildings. Examples of the latter are Habana Libre (1958), which before the revolution was the Havana Hilton Hotel and La Rampa movie theater (1955).

Famous architects such as Walter Gropius, Richard Neutra and Oscar Niemeyer all passed through the city,[33] while strong influences can be seen in Havana at this time from Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.[34] The Edificio Focsa (1956) represents Havana's economic dominance at the time. This 35-story complex was conceived and based on Corbusian ideas of a self-contained city within a city. It contained 400 apartments, garages, a school, a supermarket, and restaurant on the top floor. This was the tallest concrete structure in the world at the time (using no steel frame) and the ultimate symbol of luxury and excess. The Havana Riviera Hotel (1957) designed by Irving Feldman, a twenty-one-story edifice, when it opened, the Riviera was the largest purpose-built casino-hotel in Cuba or anywhere in the world, outside Las Vegas (the Havana Hilton (1958) surpassed its size a year later).

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Varadero

Varadero is foremost a tourist resort town, boasting more than 20 km of white sandy beaches. The first tourists visited Varadero as early as the 1870s, and for years it was considered an elite resort. In 1910 the annual rowing regatta was started; five years later the first hotel, named Varadero and later Club Nautico, was built. Tourism grew in the early 1930s as Irénée du Pont, an American millionaire, built his estate on the peninsula. Many famous and infamous people stayed in Varadero, for example Al Capone.[6]

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many mansions were expropriated from their rich owners. These mansions soon became museums.[citation needed] As a symbol of the new integrated tourism for Cubans and foreign visitors of all social classes, the Park of the 8000 Cubicles (Parque de las 8000 Taquillas) was built in 1960. Visitors could leave their belongings in the basement of the park, had access to sanitary installations and gastronomic services on the first floor, and could rent bathing articles and swimsuits. The surroundings of the park became the center of the city. Between the 1960s and 1980s Varadero transformed itself into a cultural centre. During those years the central park (8000 Taquillas) (located between 44th and 46th Street) saw countless concerts, festivals and sporting events.[7]

The 1990s brought the start of another hotel building campaign, mostly in the 4-star and 5-star segment. Many of the hotels are operated or co-owned by foreign businesses like Melia, Barcelo, TRYP, etc. (France's Club Med used to have a property but has since left Varadero.) As international tourism was opened up, the local population expanded with the arrival of people, some in key economic positions, from other parts of Cuba. As a consequence, Varadero has lost much of its social and cultural life and its traditions. The central park, the cinema and various cultural meeting places were neglected in favor of a hotel-centred all-inclusive-tourism and finally closed. The International Carnival, an initiative of Cubans and foreigners started in the 1980s, also ceased.


Cuban woman in Varadero
In addition to its most valued resource, the beach, Varadero has natural attractions such as caves and a chain of easily accessed virgin cays. There are also cultural, historical and environmental attractions in the vicinity, such as the cities of Matanzas and Cárdenas, the Zapata Peninsula and the resort of San Miguel de los Baños. Varadero, which is a free port, also possesses facilities for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, yachting and other water sports.

Varadero receives more than 1 million tourists annually.[citation needed]

Varadero is primarily visited by European and Canadian tourists. The number of U.S. tourists visiting Varadero, although increasing, has been limited because of the U.S. government restrictions that make it difficult for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba as tourists.

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