Historical Matanzas Yields to Varadero’s Tourism

February 13, 2012 in Places of Cuba and Things To Do |

By: Liborio País

Matanzas is the protagonist of a special case: from being considered the Athens of Cuba on account of its varied cultural activity in the 19th Century, it gave in to the nearby Varadero, the very famous beach resort which now exceeds Matanzas’s attractions.

By the year 1813, the printing press was introduced in Matanzas, 100 kilometers away from the Cuban capital, Havana. That date is considered as the beginning of the Golden Century of the Arts in the Yumuri Valley city.

Matanzas is also called this way due to the fact that it stretches down to the Yumuri Valley, which is second only to Viñales concerning nature’s values.

The possibility of printing attracted poets and writers in the same way that Varadero allurements attract thousands of tourists nowadays. Of course, in greater numbers, considering the advantages of the modern age’s transportation and advertising possibilities.

In the 19th Century, literary men and women were spurred by the expectation to see their works published, so they settled in Matanzas, its vicinity to the main Cuban city a major reason as well.

In order to promote culture, the Public Library, founded in 1835 with the sponsorship of Tomas Gener and Domingo del Monte –two outstanding personalities of the intellectual circles of the times, is followed by The Garland, the first Matanzas literary magazine, in 1842.

In the meantime, intellectuals of the worth of Jose Jacinto Milanes, Placido and Manzano, Miguel Teurbe Tolon and Feliz Tanco, among others, abound in the province.

Matanzas’s greatest magnificence comes in the 60’s and 70’s of the 19th Century at the creation of the Artistic and Literary Society and the inauguration of the Esteban Theater, today called Sauto, which is supposed to have one of the best acoustic qualities in the whole world.

At the time, the Matanzas violinist Jose White was honored in Europe and America as one of the best, while Miguel Failde was being enticed by the muses to compose the Danzon, eventually the Cuban national dance and the basis of other genres such as the Danzonete, the Chachacha and the Mambo.

In 1860, Rafael del Villar advances the idea of calling Matanzas “The Athens of Cuba”, receiving almost unanimous approval since the idea was already unofficially accepted in all circles.

Matanzas is located on the northern coast of Cuba, almost a hundred kilometers to the east of Havana. It was founded on October the 12th, 1693, with the name of San Carlos and San Severino of Matanzas.

The category of “village” was bestowed upon it by the Spanish King, immediately after the happenings brought about by the Dutch Pieter Hein, who defeated the New Spain Fleet, dealing a harsh blow to the Spanish Crown.

Supposedly, the Fleet and part of the New World riches should enter into the Havana Harbor and from there, depart for Sevilla with the protection of other vessels. However, according to hearsay, the pilot fell asleep and the pirates were upon them before they realized it.

This happened in 1628; to avoid occurrences like this, it was decided to found a village and to provide it with suitable fortresses. Eventually, it gave rise to what the city of Matanzas is today, as a result.

In reference to the name, an episode describes its origin. Before it was colonized by the Spanish, there was an Indian settlement called Yucayo in the area. Once, a Spanish ship arrived at the Matanzas inlet and the aborigines invited the newcomers to visit the village.

Since the town was across the river, the natives suggested the Spanish should cross it on canoes. In the middle of the crossing, the natives turned over the vessels, and only 4 out of 30 people survived, three men and a woman, all made slaves. Later, an expedition rescued them and from that moment on, slaughters did take place, but of Indians.

But visitors do not have to confine themselves to enjoying the warm waters and the very fine Varadero sand when they are visiting the Yumuri region if they hope to spend the nicest vacation in Cuba. The “Blue Beach” is only 20 minutes away from Matanzas City by road; in its environs are also natural beauties making your stay even more lasting in your memory. The famous Bellamar Caves and the Yumuri Valley are among them.

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