Radio26.Cu – Matanzas, Cuba


Five gifts of Matanzas to save it from being forgotten.

Tamara Caridad Mesa González 9 febrero, 2019

Balcony of Jáuregui: a symbol of the city of Matanzas, perhaps one of the most abused, with a curious anecdote about its construction. It was inaugurated on November 30, 1946 thanks to the initiative of the Municipal Pro-Calles de Matanzas, an organization committed to the settlement of roads in the town. In the street of Jáuregui corner to Zaragoza there was a gap that prevented joining both arteries and the solution was to erect a balcony across the width of the block, much appreciated as a site to make a stop and contemplate the surroundings.

A tarja «in situ» remembers that the children of the public and private schools of the city donated coins of their snack to build the iconic balcony. The place is quickly identifiable by the street of stairs that leads to an emblematic ceiba, where believers deposit religious offerings. Unfortunately, believers and non-believers also deposit urban waste there.

Country houses: the city is dotted with these heritage homes, many built with exquisite taste, which immediately attract the attention of the passer-by. Several were erected in high places to offer a more spectacular panoramic view of the region known for its scenic beauty. When you refer to old vintage photos you can see that these majestic dwellings have seen better days. According to Dr. Alicia García Santana in her classic book Matanzas: The Athens of Cuba, in the second half of the nineteenth century was adopted in the neoclassical city that new type of housing that of the fifth house or chalet, with portals supported by columns.

Streets of stairs: Matanzas is the city with the most streets of stairs in Cuba. Perhaps they are among one of the most ignored elements of the urban landscape of the island’s first modern city. Its presence has much to do with a terrain where elevations abound. One of those streets of stairs, that of Jesús María, stands out among the longest in Cuba, with its 137 steps, eleven breaks and ten planters. Jesus Maria’s staircase and Jáuregui’s staircase are located on both sides of the micro zoo, Watkin Park.

La Campana Cave: Whoever gets to know Matanzas should not deny himself the pleasure of appreciating it from the heights of the Simpson neighborhood, immortalized in the mythical first danzón (national dance of Cuba and originally from this city). Most of the visitors go up in search of the spectacular views that surround the Hermitage of Monserrate, built on the Loma del Estero by the Catalans in the 19th century, and they pass by the La Campana Cave.

The cavern was visited by locals since the eighteenth century; reason given by the researcher Silvia Hernández Godoy in his book Aboriginal Archaeological Heritage of Matanzas, to claim that it is considered the «first tourist site» in the region. (Yes, they read well, before Bellamar Cave, which is the oldest active tourist site in Cuba). La Cueva de La Campana or Simpson Cave, where primary aboriginal burials and pictograms were also found, was visited by Bishop Diaz de Espada in 1804, who captured his impressions in a text later considered the first speleological story written on the island.

Principal Theater: its façade is all that remains of the building located on Manzano Street between City Hall and Jovellanos, in the city of Matanzas. On his stage, works such as El Conde Alarcos, by the Matanzas romantic poet José Jacinto Milanés, were performed. It opened its doors in 1830 and closed more than a century and a half ago.

Despite its modest bill it was the first theater in the town where previously there were only improvised stages. Among other figures of art, the Cuban violinist José White, the American pianist Luis Moreau Gottschalk and the Austrian classical dancer Fanny Elssler shone in the Principal, but in the end the small room was overshadowed by the majestic theater Esteban (today Sauto).

• Photos of Abel López Montes de Oca


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