Friday, March 4, 2011

Touching history in Bayamo

Bayamo shines under the hot sun of a Cuban February at a glorious 31°. The bright light blinds our eyes, used to darker winter days in the North. The cleanliness of its streets is impressing, houses and buildings are all impeccable, well painted and preserved. Under the intensely blue sky, Bayamo appears as in a postcard.

San Salvador de Bayamo, the second village founded in Cuba by Diego Velázquez in 1513, is not just looks, it exudes history, and plaques all over town tell the stories behind old colonial buildings, parks and plazas.

 It was here where the Cuban national anthem was composed and first interpreted on October 20, 1868 by Perucho Figueredo, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes took the city in the first frontal battle and victory against the colonial power of Spain. Ten days earlier, Céspedes had freed his slaves at La Demajagua, many of whom joined him in his struggle against the Spanish occupiers. For three months Bayamo was the first capital of the Republic in Arms.

On January 12, 1869, under the possibility of falling into the hands of the Spanish troops advancing towards the city, the mambises (rebels) and all the citizens of Bayamo decide to burn the city and only leave the ashes to the enemy.
Bayamo preserves with jealousy its place in history and its traditions.

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