The Province of Ciego de Avila

In the province of Ciego de Avila, the first settlers coming from Andalucia in the middle of the 16th century gave the city its cock-a-doodle-doo symbol. They nick-named “Town of the young rooster”. The gallo (guy-yo) still sings twice daily from atop a monument at Hotel Moron. The word moron either means a nice view or a mound or is a reminder of a namesake village near Sevilla in Spain. First bullfights in 1851, first public school and first newspaper in 1855, first firefighters in 1868.

In 1871 started the building of a huge defense line la Trocha made of low wood-built towers which crossed the island from the south coast at Jucaro to here in Moron on the north coast, the idea being to block the separatists’ troops from going west to La Havana. Also plying the same route were military locomotives turned into killing machines which bore names like La Júcaro, La Ciego, La Amparo, La Chiva, La Cuenca and the most famous, El Almirante. One was named la Carneceria, the butcher.

Ernest Hemingway lauded the numerous cayos of the Cuban tourist area called Jardines del Rey (Gardens of the King) half a century ago describing with knowledge and affection both Coco and Guillermo keys (cayos) in Islands in the Stream.

Today, although it remains a popular hunting and fishing location for Cubans besides having many colonial and cultural sites of interest, most tourists just pass through (morons…) on their way to the keys or cayos.

These keys cover some 500 sq km, a kind of nirvana of scuba divers (in cayos Media Luna and Los Felipes : four centres with 22 dive sites), of beachcombers (21 km of white sand), as well as bird watchers looking for some of its 158 species, which, surprisingly enough have not left following the building boom which saw rise some 3,000 hotel rooms.

Cayo Coco, Cayo Paredon Grande and Cayo Romano make up the 785 sq km Buenavista protected reserve where hunting is a no-no : iguanas, stags and some 30,000 pink roseate flamingos live there in relative peace.

The keys are reached by a causeway or pedraplen (a huge three-year long project completed in 1980) on the bay of Perros (dogs) and extending some 90 km, a 50-minute drive to the end.