Camagüey Historical Center: A World Heritage Labyrinth
Imagine a Cuban landscape! What do you see? Probably a dazzling beach, with palm trees, white sand and infinite blue sea. Or perhaps a street in Havana, where some classic cars roll. And you are right: both visions are part of the authentic Cuba. However, there are other places, equally charming, not to miss during your holidays in this archipelago. Today we want to talk about one of these sites.
Have you heard the name “Camagüey”? Write it on your list, because in this city, located in the central-eastern part of Cuba, there are many things to discover. It dates from the year 1514 and it is included among the first seven towns founded by the Spanish colonizers on the island. It has a wonderfully preserved Historic Center, which covers about 54 hectares and is a true labyrinth. We are serious: the network of squares, alleys and blocks of houses follows an irregular distribution, very rare in the colonial cities of Latin America. It seems that there is no order and that it is very easy to get lost; But don’t worry, because at every step you will find a smiley local, ready to guide you if you need it.
In the Historic Center of Camagüey late medieval influence is noticeable, both in the layout of the alleys and in the way some of the oldest buildings were built. Over time, other architectural styles such as neoclassical, neocolonial, eclectic, and art deco have been integrated. What to do, what to see in its streets? We recommend you start your tour of one of the squares: Carmen, Gallo, San Juan de Dios, Workers’, Agramonte Park or José Martí Park. The spirit of the city beats in them. For example, if you are in “Plaza del Carmen”, visit the church of the same name. It is the only temple in town with two twin towers, and in front of it, the life-size statues of some city characters draw attention: a newspaper reader, a water carrier, chattering ladies, a couple in love… In “Agramonte Park” you will see four imposing palms, reminiscent of the four patriots shot after the first independence uprising in Camagüey in 1851; And if you dare to be here during the sunrise you will coincide with the ceremony of honor to the Cuban flag that takes place every day.
In the “Plaza San Juan de Dios” you will find the convent-hospital of the same name, current headquarters of the Provincial Heritage Center. They say that in 1822 the French privateer Jean Laffite, known as “the Pirate of the Gulf of Mexico”, who was a prisoner of the Spanish conquerors those days, escaped from here.
Go on to the “Plaza de los Trabajadores”, which structure is different from the rest of the esplanades – this is a triangle – and visit the Casa Natal de Ignacio Agramonte museum and the church of La Merced.
Are you a lover of science and passionate about discoveries? Nearby you will find the home where Carlos Juan Finlay was born, a doctor who in the late 19th century discovered the role of a species of mosquitoes as vectors in the transmission of yellow fever. Do you like art? Get to the gallery of Martha Jiménez, painter and sculptor, to whose authorship the statues mentioned above are due. And don’t miss the chance to see it “from above” on your tour of the Historic Center: a very exact model, located in the Agramonte park itself, will make you remember all the places you’ve already visited, while discovering new and equally interesting ones.
Cuba’s National Monument, hospitable and welcoming to visitors, a labyrinth in which it is rewarding to get lost, the Historic Center of Camagüey was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. According to this organization, the recognition “confirms the exceptional and universal value of a site that must be protected for the benefit of humanity ”. Don’t you think it’s worth a visit?