Regarded as the hero city of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba was named after the saint patron of the king of Spain, Santiago de Compostela, it was firstly founded on June 28th, 1515, by the island conqueror, Diego Velazquez, whose house is found around the Parque Cespedes, in down town Santiago. The city was founded in the foothills of the country’s largest mountain range, the Sierra Maestra.
Since very early Santiago de Cuba became a very important site for Spain, reason why it was the first capital of the country and the city where the governor would have his house, later on Havana became the capital city of the country, however Santiago de Cuba never lost its Caribbean charm. Its independent nature allows Santiago to develop its own idiosyncrasy, formed through the years, with a very rich mixture of Africans, Spanish, French, and several other nationalities that due to several different reasons ended up in Santiago de Cuba, mixing their religions, their cultures, rhythms, believes, traditions, etc. Santiago’s capital municipality is Santiago de Cuba, which with a population of about Half a million inhabitants, it is considered the most populated municipality of the country. As a province, Santiago de Cuba has an extension of 6 343, 2 Sq Km. and a population of over a million inhabitants, the whole province is formed by 9 municipalities, being Palma Soriano and Contramaestre some of the most important, thanks to their economic interest. Due to the mountainous landscape of Santiago, it was chosen by the French settlers escaping from the Haitian revolution, in the 18th century, to establish their residences and coffee plantations, that is why even now a days the best coffee in Cuba is grown in the mountains of Sierra Maestra. During the tour to La Gran Piedra, some of the ruins of the old coffee plantations are visited. Santiago is the only city in Cuba that holds the title of Hero City, a title granted by the Government, because of the amount of patriotic fighters, that were born in this area, patriots that fought for the Cuban independence against Spain and later on during the revolutionary fights against Machado, Batista and so many other dictators. Great warriors like Antonio Maceo, Guillermon Moncada, Frank Pais, and many others were born in this area. In the Cemetery of Santa Efigenia the visitor can find the Jose Marti’s graveyard, the Cuban national hero, a great letters man. Jose Marti was the initiator and leader of the second war of independence against Spain that started in 1895 and ended up with the American intervention in 1898. Although he started to prepare the war since 1878. Going around Santiago city will allow you to feel the warmth and hospitality for which, the “Santiagueros” are famous, visit the Parque Cespedes, the Moncada Garrison, La Granjita Siboney, the Basilica del Cobre, the old rum factory that originally belonged to Emilio Bacardi Moreau, the cigar factory and many other sites that will actually increase your interest for getting to know a bit more about the most Caribbean of the Cuban cities.