In Cuba, legendary town to celebrate 500th birthday

IANS  |  Havana 

Last Updated at 10:48 IST

Sancti Spiritus, a central city in Cuba that is surrounded by legends, is getting all dressed up for an event eagerly awaited by its inhabitants: the town with narrow streets and sidewalks, roofs of red clay tiles and a distinctive colonial style turns five centuries since its foundation.

View of beautiful historic Sancti Spiritus

It is the fourth of the first seven villages, preceded by Baracoa, Bayamo and Trinidad, founded by the Spanish conquistadors in Cuba, according to Prensa Latina news agency.

Originally settled next to Tuinucu River, the villagers moved eight years later to the Yayabo hillsides, where it was located from that time and still remains for those who like to enjoy a bucolic environment.

The town, founded June 4, 1514, is surrounded by legends of all kinds which allude to a small güije – a little black rogue creature – who goes out at night in the waters of the emblematic Yayabo River. In fact, there still remains alive the legend of a plague of ants that attacked the town and especially took umbrage with babies, eating their navels.

The more credible is that when gold was run out in Tuinucu River, the Spaniards searched for a new site, always next to a stream, and so in 1522 the town was moved to the banks of Yayabo where historians say they found abundant aboriginal labour.

Founded by Diego Velazquez, Sancti Spiritus, about 350 km east of Havana, shows a colonial architecture highlighting symbols such as the bridge over the Yayabo River (surrounded by a legend saying that its strength is due to the cow’s milk used in the mixture), one of its kind in Cuba, the Mayor Parochial Church and the Main Theatre.

There are also other buildings of significant importance like the Valle Palace, the former mansion of one of the richest families in the region, the Hundred Gates House that is home to the Museum of Colonial Art since many years, as well as other properties integrated to the historic city centre, a Cuban national monument since Oct 10, 1978.

With the passage of time after Sancti Spiritus was founded, African blood got mixed with Spanish and Chinese, and even with those of other nationalities, although to a lesser extent.

The stained glasses are perhaps the identifying hallmark of Sancti Spiritus, a kind of colourful light concert when the sun passes over them, and many old houses still preserve them, as the house where lived Oscar Fernandez-Morera, regarded as the first painter in Sancti Spiritus.

This element of architecture has such a profound influence in the city that both the local radio station and a cultural supplement of the local newspaper Escambray are called Stained Glasses.

However, a renowned Cuban plastic artist, Rita Longa, called Sancti Spiritus the City of Murals.

Indeed, some of its streets exhibit mural painting, with various techniques and motifs, and there are also murals inside of certain less visible institutions.

Mural paintings of earlier centuries also adorn the walls of certain properties, currently with different uses.

A city of poets, writers, painters, and distinguished patriots like Major General Serafin Sanchez Valdivia, hero of three independence wars of the 19thcentury, Sancti Spiritus awaits the arrival of the 500th anniversary of its foundation.

The arterial roads of the town are filled with people and foreign tourist who admire the spirit of the town and its residents like fine wine.

–IANS/Prensa Latina

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