Probably the most historical Cuban city is Bayamo, located at the Eastern Province of Granma. Behind its 19th century buildings and its countryside feeling, there is a story of sacrifice, dedication and fire.
The ancient village of San Salvador de Bayamo was the second founded by the Spaniard Diego Velázquez during the conquest and colonization of the island. The flourishment of the sugar industry and the arrival of goods and slaves to Manzanillo’s Port contributed to the development of city. However, at the same time, the repressed Cuban population started growing feelings of belonging and nationality. That’s how Bayamo’s citizens became vocal supporters of a new independence movement. In October 10th 1868, the landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes liberated his slaves and convoked them to fight for the independence of Cuba. At the farm La Demajagua, an interesting museum you can visit these days, the Ten Years War was initiated.
There have been many important events held in Bayamo, Granma, such as the foundation of the First Republic in Arms during the war and the creation of Cuba’s National Anthem. One occurrence demonstrate the nature of its brave citizens: In 1869, the Spanish troops attempted to recover Bayamo from the rebel warriors (the mambises). The population decided to burn its city to the ashes rather than surrender it to the invaders.
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What to visit in Bayamo: a comprehensive guide
Today Bayamo is a National Monument and its considered Birthplace of the Cuban Nationality. Numerous cultural attractions are waiting there for you.
Don’t miss in Bayamo
A panoramic trip in carriage
Narrow streets and ancient traditions have led to the conservation of a colonial habit: the use of horse-drawn carriages to move along the city. A movement of artisans preserves to date the art of building these vehicles respecting the original conceptions. If you wish to move around like a local, try a panoramic trip in Bayamo’s “coches”.
Plaza del Himno (Anthem’s Square)
Very close to the Parque Céspedes is the Plaza del Himno, the place where the patriots sang Cuba’s National Anthem for the first time on June 11, 1869, during the first independency war. The square is also the seat of the Iglesia Mayor San Salvador de Bayamo (San Salvador de Bayamo Major Church), a parochial institution that survived 1969’s fire and was declared National Monument.
Built in 1749, the church is part of the history of conspiracy of the city. Among the religious images you will find a very unique mural representing the pledge and blessing of the Cuban Flag. The gorgeous wooden ceiling and the small chapel named Capilla de La Dolorosa with its baroque altarpiece is something you don’t want to miss.
The Bodega de Atocha
Under the shadow of mango trees, in a nice restored mansion is the Bodega de Atocha, a site to taste Granma’s traditional dishes and enjoy the magnificent view of Bayamo River: the congris, the yucca with mojo, the roasted pork have there a totally different sense. Don’t miss the Ceremony of the Mambí Coffee, where coffee is prepared as it was made during the war times, with natural honey!
During the night, you will enjoy there the music and the relaxed atmosphere of a curious cabaret.
Would you like to have a real insight into Granma’s culture? Then take a stroll through Bayamo’s boulevard. This lively pedestrian street is decorated with paintings and sculptures of different local artists but also is a summary of delicious restaurants, shops and unique museums. Don’t forget to visit it at night to enjoy live music concerts and traditional dances at Casa de la Trova.
The Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park)
Also known as the Revolution Square, the Céspedes Park is located at the heart of Bayamo. Surrounded by royal palms trees, historic monuments and magnificent buildings, is one of the most popular spaces in the city. The Literary Coffee, the Natal House of the patriot Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and a mansion where used to be Philharmonic Society are just some of the places you could see there. It’s definitely a must-see spot in Bayamo.
Carlos M. De Céspedes’s Natal House
Crowning Maceo Street there is a mansion with a great architectonic and historical value: Carlos Manuel de Céspedes’s Birth House. It’s the only example of the two-storey colonial house in the city, a beautiful museum which describes through paintings, objects and documents the hazardous and compelling life of the man considered by Cubans as “The father of the Motherland”. Together with the adjacent Provincial Museum, it’s a wonderful opportunity to understand how the Cuban nation was formed and how the fights for independency started.
Luz Vázquez’s Window
Have you heard about any famous window? Well, Luz Vázquez’s window is a much visited place in Bayamo. It evokes the creation of one of the most beautiful Cuban songs of all times: La Bayamesa. Locals tell the story of the gorgeous Luz Vázquez, who was the fiancée of the musician Pancho Castillo Moreno. In Bayamo, during the 19th century, there was the tradition of playing serenades to reverence the ladies and gaining their love. That’s how the idea of writing a new song and helping Castillo to give a serenade to his lover became real. At the night of March 27th 1851 the tenor Carlos Pérez interpreted The Bayamesa (written by José Fornaris and composed by Carlos M. de Céspedes and Pancho Castillo) in front of Luz Vázquez’s window. Few days later the new song was sung by every lady of the village and it continued spreading across the island and even internationally. During the war, with another inspirational lyric, The Bayamesa was sang by every mambí (warrior), it reverences the virtues of the Cuban woman and in some way it compared her with the Motherland.
Retablo de los Héroes (Heroes’ Altarpiece)
Following the historical path through Bayamo we recommend you to visit the Heroes’ Altarpiece at the intersection of Amado Estévez Street. Its main section presents a monument dedicated to the most representative patriots of Cuba’s Independency Wars: Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Perucho FIgueredo, Bartoloné Masó, Juan Clemente Zenea and many others.
Bayamo Cabaret and Los Beatles Cultural Center
Looking for a place to practice your salsa skills? Then visit Bayamo’s Cabaret, the largest indoor cabaret in Cuba! The cocktails selection and the amusing show will really make your night.
However if you are looking for a surprising place at the heart of the province of Granma, hit Los Beatles Cultural Center. The original center is a paradise for Beatles’ fans, which will find there a enduring tribute from different Cuban groups to the Band.
Comandancia La Plata
And finally, for those with an intrepid spirit Espíritu Travel proposes an excursion to the Comandancia de La Plata at the Sierra Maestra National Park. Be prepared to follow a local guide to the place where Fidel Castro and the other members of the revolutionary Cuban forces established rebel headquarters. Hidden among mountains and vegetation you will encounter the wooden shelters where the warriors lived, Fidel’s house, a guard post, a basic hospital founded and maintained by Ernesto Ché Guevara, a small cemetery and even the foundations of Radio Rebelde, an emission created during war times (and kept until today) to inform the population of everything occurring in the country. Really an unmissable adventure!
The Fiesta de la Cubanía
Travelling to the city of Bayamo can be especially pleasant in October, when the Fiesta de la Cubanía is held. The festival is really a party of Cuban traditions where multiple presentations, scenic performances, live concerts of recognized musicians and even the Fair of Popular Art join at the same place.
This year celebration was dedicated to the Father of the Motherland: the city was surprised by a rain of flowers and a “mambí” procession accompanying its original baptismal certificate. The voices of street theatre performers, the books sales, the rumba dances, the clowns entertaining the children and the smell of Cuban coffee prepared with the traditional strainer and sold in rustic “jícaras” like it was drunk during the war constituted an amazing spectacle.
If you are interested in exploring Bayamo, check Espíritu Travel’s Explore Cuba, an immersion into the genuine cultural and historical roots of Cuba. Contact us today to learn every detail.