Sunday, 11 May 2014

Baracoa is the oldest place in Cuba and located in a tropical setting

Baracoa has stolen our hearts with its tropical surroundings, beautiful beaches, laid back atmosphere and friendly residents

Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage

It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning "the presence of the sea"

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba in a place he named Porto Santo

It is generally assumed from his description that this was Baracoa, although there are also claims it was Gibara

But Columbus also described a nearby table mountain, which is almost certainly nearby El Yunque

He wrote in his logbook ... the most beautiful place in the world ...I heard the birds sing that they will never ever leave this place...

According to legend, Columbus put a cross called Cruz de la Parra in the sands of what would later become Baracoa harbor

Before the Cuban Revolution the only access was by sea, but in the 1960s a 120 km long road from Guantánamo named La Farola was built through the mountains, which was one of the showcases of the revolution

The 575 m high table mountain el Yunque (the anvil) is
10 km to the west of Baracoa

It is a remnant of a plateau and because of its isolation it houses several unique species of ferns and palms

The only official and easiest approach to climb it starts at campismo El Yunque (simple lodgings for Cubans only), where a guide is obligatory 

Around 15 August 1511 (the official foundation day) Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar was appointed the first governor of Cuba and built a villa here and named the place 'Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa

In the 16th and 17th centuries the isolated location made it a haven for illegal trade with the French and English

Cacao fruit

At the beginning of the 19th century many French fled here from the revolution of independence in Haiti, who started growing coffee and cocoa

The main products in the region are bananacoconut and cacao an it is Cuba's main chocolate manufacturing area


The remote location at the eastern end of the Cuban island has kept the influence of mass tourism quite low, despite the idyllic location

Baracoa has some very typical dishes, such as Cucurucho, a mix of coconut and lots of sugar and other ingredients like orange, guava and pineapple and wrapped in a palm leaf

The old center was renovated after Hurricane Sandy

The original inhabitants of the island were Taíno Indians

They were eradicated by the Spanish all over Cuba except here and this is the only place where descendants still live

These Cubans asked if I wanted to take a picture of them and then I got a kiss on the cheek from both gentlemen

The Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción houses the earings of the Cruz de la Parra, a cross that Cali is supposed to have brought from Spain

Although it has been carbon dated to approximately that period, it is made from a local type of wood, which means at least part of the story is not correct

Parque Independencia was refurbished when we were there

There are two music venues near the central Parque Independencia, the touristy Flan de Queso and the more traditional Casa de la Flana

A local hero is Hatuey, who fled from the Spanish in Hispaniola and raised a Taíno army to fight the Spanish in Cuba

According to the story Hatuey was betrayed by a member of his group and sentenced to burn at the stake

It is said that just before he died a Catholic priest tried to convert him so he would attain salvation

Hatuey asked the priest if Heaven was the place where
the dead Spanish go

When he received an answer in the affirmative he told the priest that
he'd rather go to Hell

Baracoa has clean, nice and quiet streets

Outside the renovated center there are some houses much less attractive

The stadium lies on the Bay


Hotel El Castillo is located in an old fort and has stunning views of Baracoa

Beach “Playa Toa”

Gustavo Rizo Airport is a regional airport that serves this town

This is a small airport that usually operates with national flights

Located west of the bay near the Hotel Porto Santo and
about 4 km NNW of Baracoa

Although flights are infrequent, Cubana de Aviación flies here occasionally from Santiago de Cuba and Havana, and the fare is very reasonable

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