Discover the rich history and culture of Guantanamo while marveling at its stunning natural landscapes

Guantánamo, land between rivers

The indigenous name “Guantánamo” stands for “land among rivers”. This region stands out because of its impressive mountainous rural zones as well as its important basins like those of the “Guantánamo- Guaso” and “Toa” rivers.

City life revolves around the Central Park Jose Marti, a pleasant leafy square shaded by laburnum trees (glorious in March), and with an attractive golden-coloured church, the Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Catalina. You can’t forget to visit the attractive old houses on Pedro A. Perez and Calixto Garcia streets.

The city‘s origin dates from 1820 and keeps a close relationship with the advance of the pro-slavery plantations. The founders were Catalan and French, but the native group was complemented with slaves and free men that cleared the bushes and start to build residences and trades.

Lined streets, square blocks in combination with a very careful constructive process transcended, and the architectural eclecticism arose as sign of identity. Several majestic buildings stand out: the Salcines Palace, the Market Square of the, the House of Culture Rubén López Sabariego and others.

Many French colonists from Haiti came to this part of the island, who in a short time grew cocoa orchards, fruit areas and large coffee trees plantations in mountainous areas. We have learned that their knowledge of agriculture as well as their habits exists to this day.

This is the most mountainous area in the archipelago and its soils are arid in the southern parts, but not in the north where it rains more than the national average.

At the north is located the Sagua-Baracoa mountain range and farther inland the Cuchillas de Toa (The Ridges of river Toa). It is one of the world’s last untouched rainforests and it contains large number of endangered plant and animal species. In 1996 these protected areas were united to found the Alexander von Humboldt National Park, the most important biosphere reserve in the Caribbean basin, which with Cuchillas de Toa, in 2001 was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

The south region hosts the Cuban semi-desert that catches visitor’s curiosity. Flora and fauna shows an admirable, the landscape its characterized by vast stone mountains that seems to be huge handmade sculptures of called “Monitongos”. In 1990 the “Monitongos” were declared Monument of the Cuban Nature.

The territory has deep-rooted musical and dance traditions that were also influenced by the Franco Haitian immigrants who flocked to the area after the 1791 Haitian Revolution like the French Tumba “Tumba Francesa” one of the most ancient and important music-dancing expression in the Cuban culture. Such musical genres as the “Changüí” (a country dance) and “Kiriba” are exclusive to Guantanamo.

The most famous Cuban song ever written “Guantanamera” or “Girl from Guantanamo”, by Joseito Fernandez pays tribute to this province. World-renowed musicians have played and sung this catchy melody all over the world.

Scenario of important facts related with the wars of independence, such as the Antonio Maceo landing on April 1st of 1895 by “Duaba” beach and the arrival on April 11th of 1895 of José Martí and Máximo Gómez by “Cajobabo”beach.

Famous citizens won the right to figure in the national scenario, among other: The emblematic General Pedro Agustín Pérez; the captivating poet and historian Regino Eladio Boti; the renowned civil architect José of Jesús Lecticio Salcines Morlote; the first cosmonaut from Latin America Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez and the several-time heavy weight champion Félix Savon.

American capital started flowing into the economy of Guantánamo around the end of the 20th century; mainly in the sugar industry and in the services and employments generated by the military Naval Base in Guantánamo.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 set the beginning of a profound social and economical transformation in the territory. This was illustrated by the disappearance of the landocracy with the First Agrarian Reform Law, the development of public health and education as well as the diversification of economic activities.

Another site of interest in the area, near Yateras, is a “zoo” whose animals have been sculpted out of stone. Here, farmer-sculpter Angel Inigo Blanco has sculpted 300 life-sized animals from all continents out of large rocks that are scattered through the woods.p>

The sculpture “La Fama” that crowns the “Salcines Palace”, it’s from 1992 emblem of the city. The idol of the tobacco “Cemí” is the province symbol and it’s a legitimate exponent of the legacy of our indigenous past.

The tourism is represented by the hotel facilities “Villa Lupe” and “Hotel Guantánamo”, located to a few minutes from downtown and both are a sophisticated and relaxing base from which to discover our fascinating city and share with its residents.

Main Sights

– Zoologico de piedras

More than five hundred pieces carved in stones exhibit in the only Zoo with these characteristics in the world, located in the guantanamero municipality of Yateras. Nearly 40 years old, the facility remains open to the public, both foreign and domestic.

Located in the province of Guantanamo, in the Finca San Lorenzo, is one of the major attractions that distinguish the easternmost province of Cuba. Numerous pieces, with motifs of the animal and social life of the country astonish those who visit this installation.

A bohío, an arria de bueyes and the most exotic animals of the African savannah or the Cuban mountains can be found immortalized in stone, thanks to the sensibility and the dedicated work of Ángel Íñigo Blanco.

On December 21, 1977, Íñigo Blanco decided to go beyond the small sculptures of wax and clay, to work on the making of a lion, which marked the beginning of the 426 sculptures carved in limestone, made during more than 29 years. His son Ángel Íñigo Pérez and a group of installation workers continue the work and are also in charge of restoring the sculptures.

– Salcines Palace

The Salcines Palace, one of the most relevant and significant buildings in the historic centre of this eastern city, is proudly exhibited in Guantanamo. Its haughtiness and beauty enhances it as the maximum expression of the eclectic architecture built in the second decade of the twentieth century.

The building was designed by the architect José Lecticio Salcines for the family. In fact, it is one of his first works, after graduating in 1913 from the University of Havana as Architect and Civil and Electrical Engineer.

Influenced by the currents of the Beaux Arts ewl, Salcines designs and supervises the work until 1919, date in which the project concludes, that initially conceived only for two levels, nevertheless, during the execution it decided to incorporate a third one.

The construction stands in a central corner of the villa on an almost square corner. As a whole, it is founded on columns and beams of reinforced concrete, with doors where curved lines and exquisite sculptures stand out, which reach an extreme planimetric independence.

– Parque Martí

Anchored in the small parish of Santa Catalina de Riccis in 1863, the renovated Parque Martí has information boards and an endless number of interesting shops, restaurants and entertainment corners along vibrant boulevards. In the middle of the action is a seated statue of “El Maestro”, from whom the square takes its name.

– Plaza Mariana Grajales

The enormous and pompous Monument to the Heroes, which glorifies the Border Brigade `which defends the trench ahead of socialism in this continent’, dominates the Mariana Grajales Square, 1 km northwest of the train station and in front of the Guantanamo Hotel. It is one of the most impressive ‘squares of the revolution’ on the island.

– Biblioteca Policarpo Pineda Rustán

An architectural gift from Leticio Salcines is this beautiful provincial library that was once the town hall (1934-51). The trials of Fulgencio Batista’s thugs were held here in 1959, and several died when they took a rifle and tried to escape.

– Museo Provincial

Located in an old prison guarded by two canyons, the city museum has rooms dedicated to Aboriginal culture, local nature, weapons (many mambis swords) and decorative arts.

– Parroquia de Santa Catalina de Riccis

This simple but noble church dates back to 1863. In front there is a statue of the local hero, Mayor General Pedro A. Perez, erected in 1928, in front of a tulip fountain and a tiny roundabout.