Diego Velázquez founded the city in 1514 and named it for the King of Spain’s patron saint, St. Jago.
Home of rum and revolution and cradle of the cuban Son music, Santiago has a unique, enigmatic appeal and is one of the most interesting regions in the country. The second-largest city in Cuba is distinctive in mood and teems with sites of historical, cultural and natural interest.
Its east-facing position and proximity to Jamaica and Haiti forested close links between the city and the two Caribbean islands. It is sometimes referred to as “Cuba’s most Caribbean city”. The majority of the 30,000 or so French planters and merchants who fled Haiti following the revolution in 1791 chose to settle in and around Santiago, stitching their habits and customs onto the cultural quilt of the city. Many French planters also established on the surrounding mountains. The rich racial mixture has produced some of the most exciting music, art and architecture in the Caribbean. The potpourri of influences can be felt to this day.
The people carry themselves in Santiago with a certain lassitude and speak in a lilting tongue with a musical tone.
Though the traditional architecture is mostly Spanish, the faces are mostly black - often with jade green eyes betraying hints of European blood.
Beyond the limits of the city the visitors will find beaches trapped between the mountains and the ocean, and such attractions as Parque Baconao – featuring a cactus garden, an aquarium, a crocodile farm, the prehistoric world of “Valle de la Prehistoria”, among other places of interest, as well as the National Park “Gran Piedra,” which boasts a megalith of tens of thousands of tons perched atop a peak, 1200 meters above the sea level, and surrounded by a splendid garden. Santiago de Cuba is another city in Cuba that is a perfect vacation destination.
Another well-known haunt is the holy shrine of El Cobre, sanctuary to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba.
The Sierra Maestra (to the west) and the Sierra Cristal (to the north) lure hikers and birders, as well as anyone interested in the country’s history.