Monday, March 11, 2019

Cuba si! (January 2019)--Santiago de Cuba

Final report on Cuba . . . After departing Cienfuegos we sailed overnight along the south coast of the island, arriving at the far eastern end late the next afternoon. Our destination was Santiago de Cuba (a redundancy apparently to distinguish from the capital of Chile), situated at the north end of a six mile-long bay, not far from Guantanamo Bay. We did not visit Guantanamo Bay--or we might still be there.

At the eastern entrance to the bay is a gorgeous old fort, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca (1700). We were not fired upon. See the photo below.

Halfway to the city. Santiago de Cuba is ahead 2-3 miles. On the left, industry. On the right, hotels, bars--playtime! And we sailed right past it, grrrr.

This "cattle boat" does not qualify as playtime.

We must drop anchor here and take tenders (the boat directly ahead) to go ashore as there's no room for our ship at the dock. Anyway there's a storm approaching, so Sheila and I elect to remain aboard for the night.

Next morning the weather has cleared so we board a tender for the bumpy ride into Santiago de Cuba.

Two things: (1) The building is where visitors must enter to have their visas inspected, and (2) those immobile guys painted blue and green want you to admire their art--and leave some American $ in the bucket.

We've arrived by bus at the city square of Santiago de Cuba, aka Céspedes Park, the city founded in 1514. Our tour guide tells us what's up for today.  Note the building at the back and its center balcony. More to come on that . . .

Reversing the view at the city square, we're looking at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption . . .

. . . and here's the interior of the Cathedral, a service in progress. Shhhhhh . . .

As the service continued inside, these little niñas danced to their own conga drummer on the Cathedral's upper porch.

In front of the Cathedral, folk dancers and musicians performed to a crowd, pulling in viewers to join in the dance--and then spend a few American $ on their CD . . .

. . . like--What? That's Sheila!

Yep, she bought the CD ;-)

Here's that building at the back of the city square. See the historic photo of Castro? He once made a rebel (not rabble)-rousing speech from the balcony directly above the photo exhibit.

Back on the bus and another grab shot through the window. Castro: "We build a prosperous and sensible socialism."
Behold, the Moncada Barracks, home of Fidel Castro's "coming-out party." According to Wikipedia, "On 26 July 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. This armed attack is widely accepted as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. The date on which the attack took place, 26 July, was adopted by Castro as the name for his revolutionary movement . . . which eventually toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on 12 January 1959." Today it's a museum.

Evidence of Castro's armed attack: Bullet holes!

We're back outside to board the bus, but let us pause to ogle this 1956 (?) Chevy.

Cuban high-speed transit, shot through the bus window (hence the reddish coloration).

The bus took us to San Juan Hill, site of the famous battle (July 1, 1898) involving the Cuban army, the American army, and the 1st American Volunteer Cavalry (the "Rough Riders") led by Teddy Roosevelt, versus the Spanish army. This battle decisively ended the Spanish-American War.

Our tour bus has brought us to our last important site in Santiago de Cuba, the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. You'll never guess the two heroes buried here. Yeah, you will.

This cemetery contains the huge Mausoleum of Jose Martí (1853-1895), "a Cuban poet, essayist, journalist, translator, professor, and publisher, who is considered a national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. He was very politically active, and is considered an important revolutionary philosopher and political theorist. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol of Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence . . . He died in military action during the Battle of Dos Ríos on May 19, 1895." (Wikipedia) The Martí burial site is protected by guards that change at intervals, as seen here.

We enter the mausoleum . . .

. . . and view the place of burial below.

And now, the grand finale: Who do you think is buried here, hmmm?

Why Castro, of course! Well, his ashes. Presumably they're behind the large steel plate displaying his name. Last name unnecessary; Ahí es solamente uno Fidel! And there you have the major influence upon the modern history of Cuba, incinerated and filed away inside a large rock.

On the way back to the ship, "I am Fidel."

Arriving at the port of Santiago de Cuba to meet our tender and walking through a tourist marketplace. Notice the large fabric bag on the right displaying another Cuban hero, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Take home your own revolutionary! "June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967) Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture." --Wikipedia

Aboard the tender, we're on our way back to the ship . . .

. . . for a 5:00 p.m. departure.

On our way again through the bay en route to the open Caribbean.

Approaching the open sea while sailing past the 319 year-old fort at the mouth of the bay.

And that concludes this Cuban travelogue. Did you enjoy it? I hope so. If you haven't already, visit the island yourself sometime. It's an interesting, enriching, destination. Thanks for looking! --John and Sheila