Santiago de Cuba
11.02.2015 - 13.03.2015
As I finally get around to posting this entry, more than a month has passed since I basked in the warm weather and blue skies of Cuba. Spring has taken her own sweet time in coming to this part of the USA and my skin shivers looking back over my Santiago de Cuba photos. Which, of course, I must do - in addition to reviewing the brochures and trip itinerary - to actually remember all the places we visited.
Santiago de Cuba is developing itself as a tourist town because of its airport and proximity to beaches. We stayed at the Melia, which is very definitely a tour and tourist hotel - very modern, with large North American-style rooms.
As I sit here under cloudy skies in 40 degree temperature. I fondly remember all the things I saw and did. Right now, I wish I were sitting on this bench smoking cigars with my twin.
One of the events that now makes me warm:
Going to the Cutumba Dance Studio. I couldn't resist taking this photo of a one-legged man sitting outside the dance studio.
We met the director and dancers. Many of us participated in 30 minutes of lessons. My instructor was so tolerant. He counted "One, Two, Three." while I counted "Uno, Dos, Tres." Both of us wanting to pretend we were bi-lingual.
Not everyone participated in the dance instruction and apparently did not find observing very exciting either.
Another very interesting field trip was to the high school for artists. Although the conditions are not up to USA standards, the skill of the teachers and the students was certainly equal.
Another field trip took us to the village of El Cobre to visit the shrine of Cuba's patron saint.
Almost all Cubans revere this place and this statue.
In and around Santiago, there are many soldiers and revolutions to honor.
the Plaza de Revolucion is the monument to the freedom from Spain. This is one of my favorite plazas and sculptures.
These represent the scythes of the peasant guerrilla fighters. (But they seemed to look quite similar to the railroad track in the Santa Clara People's Revolution in Santa Clara.)
Atop San Juan Hill, just outside the city limits although there were many statues commemorating the battles and soldiers of the Spanish- American War, it is hard to imagine Teddy charging on horseback here.
We also stopped by the Moncado Barracks, where Fidel's men came down from the surrounding mountains and the revolution was started. Today, the building is a school.
The first attempt of the revolution was not very successful. Batista patched the bullet holes in the barracks. When Fidel came to power, he had the holes recreated from a photo taking before the patch job.
The officers' houses are now private homes - I don't know for whom.
Because this is such a frequently visited place by both Cubans and tourists, this neighborhood has received enough government money to keep it ship-shape. Also, much of Santiago received extensive Hurricane Sandy damage. It was necessary to rebuild many plazas and homes.
We also visited the Cemetery of Santa Ifigenia and watch the changing of the guards at the tomb of the Cuban national hero, Jose Marti. I must say it was quite a moving experience. Just like watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham or in Arlington.
Oh! Now, I recognize that photo at the top titled "I Don't Remember!" It is the tomb of Jose Marti! We could not take our cameras into the cemetery unless we paid a fee, so I took that photo from the parking lot. In retrospect, I should have paid the 5 CUCs and taken my camera; the tombs were spectacular.
We also visited the main plaza and the museum of Diego Velazquez, which is the oldest structure in Cuba. In the garden of this museum, we encountered Vidas Vocals.
The next day at the El Morro fortress, I heard those same unforgettable voices. As I said before, you see one fort, you've seen them all. I stayed in the small chapel and listened to them during our entire stay. I sat next to one of their husbands. He was a sailor from the Ukraine, whose ship had docked in Santiago a few years ago. He heard the group and never returned to the ship. Every Thursday, he walks up the mountain to El Morro when his wife performs her as a spiritual devotion and listens to them.
All tours must come to an end.
On February 14, 2015, I left Cuba.
It is a place where I might return someday. Next time, I will not hesitate to go on my own.