Santiago de Cuba.

Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant, sultry, energetic city on the southeastern side of the Caribbean island and is famous for its Carnaval, its fort and its people.

The city of eternal summer lies at the mouth of the Bahia de Santiago and comes alive every night to the sounds of Kisomba, Salsa, Casino and Reggaeton. Santiaguenos love to sing, dance and feel the music coarse through their veins to such an extent that it seems that they were born into music. African, Spanish and other influences combine to produce some of the world’s most beloved and recognisable music, which can be heard streaming out of cafes, bars and houses at any time of the day, and especially as the sun disappears.

Visitors will recognise classic tunes which have accompanied fiestas for many, many years, while youngsters will be more familiar with artists such as El Chacal, Laritza Bacallao and Gente de Zona, whose energetic beats originated in Cuba.

Of course, Santiago’s love affair with music and dance is most evident every July during Carnaval.

Afternoons feature parades of children and teenagers in all manner of costume, and even artists on stilts warming up the people in Plaza Cespedes for the main event later that evening.

Vendors ensure that festejeros, or party-goers, are in the mood to celebrate by the time the sun sets and the real party begins.

As darkness arrives, flamboyant floats awash with glitter and vibrant colours carry beautifully-adorned and astonishingly talented dancers through the streets to the cheers and applause of the appreciative crowd. Pulsating beats fill the night air until the early hours of the morning and create a heady atmosphere of joy, celebration, pride and beauty.

Interspersed among the floats are groups of dancers on the street similarly attired and entertaining the crowds with their raw, unrestrained rhythm and phenomenal dancing ability.

Many famous musicians were born in Santiago, including one who rose to fame in Jamaica. Alpharita Constantia Anderson is better known as Rita Marley and widow of Bob Marley, and is an accomplished musician in her own right who collaborated with her late husband on many of his songs.

Santiago has also produced many famous boxers and baseball players, as well as outstanding athletes such as Olympians Alberto Juantorena, Yaime Perez, Leonel Suarez and Anier Garcia.

Rum, or Ron in Spanish, also brings fame to Santiago courtesy of the vast array of sugar plantations which surround the capital city and drive the economy for many of the people who live in the province. Visitors can learn about the production of the world-famous drop at the Museo del Ron in the centre of the city, and can sample the product at the museum or in many of the bars and cafes throughout the centre.

El Morro, or fort, is another famous attraction in Santiago. El Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca sits on the shores of the bay of Santiago and was built to protect the city from invading forces in years gone by. Today it is a popular tourist site and glimpse into the colonial history of Cuba, as well as an ideal location from which to enjoy views of the bay. Views at sunset are even more impressive.

An attack on the fort is extremely unlikely these days, as is evidenced by the relaxed attitude of these soldiers.

Santiago is a vibrant city of music, rum, fiestas and dance.


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