Visiting Camaguey city.

camaguey, city of churches
City of churches

Camagüey city is located almost in the center of the Camagüey province, where the two small rivers of Tínima and Hatibonica bond. It was founded with the title of Villa de Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, in the place it still occupies today since 1528, but it is known that it was built 14 years before on the north coast, in a nearby position to the present Port of Nuevitas.

In 1903 the city takes its actual name of Camagüey. It counts with a modern bypass and the international airport Ignacio Agramonte, one of the best available in Cuba. It is a city of high values, thus it is recommended to find a place to stay to visit the city.

The available hotels in the area are the Islazul Gran Hotel (***), the Hotel Islazul Camagüey (**), the hotel islazul Colón (**), hotel Islazul Isla de Cuba (**), Hotel Islazul Plaza (**) and the Hotel Islazul Puerto Príncipe (**) .

angel street
Angel Street

Like in part of Old Havana and it fortification system, Cienfuegos, El Morro in Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad and the Valle de los Ingenios, Camagüey, in particular its urban historical centre, was declared World’s Heritage in February 2009. It has been stated by prestigious specialists, (Gómez, L. y col., 2006), that this city centre is the biggest in Cuba with its approximately 10000 buildings located in 320 blocks that occupy and approximate area of 300 hectares. For architecture and old building lovers a stroll in the city will be of unforgettable.

Looking at the city map, a curious fact is noticed in the outline of its streets, something unique not only in Cuba, but also in the Americas: Streets and roads do not form a regular and harmonic alignment but instead they are winding or devious, as in a labyrinth or broken tile in multiple pieces. Irregular blocks are predominant. This brings the city an increased inner space where several churches appear in the city. The conservation of all these values of the city were possible thanks to the isolation, its slow growth and the lack of urbanization control .

camaguey, historic downtown
Historic downtown

It is typical in this city the coexistence of numerous plazas between the main streets and the inner narrow cobblestone roads. In addition, you will find a combination of architectonic styles and numerous churches located in the plazas among the different neighborhoods. Thus, the name by which this city has also made itself known as the city of churches.

Though generally stated that the city is a colonial one, actually only 8% of the edifications found feature colonial styles, (arcs, pilasters, eaves, etc), while in the exterior aspect the eclectic is predominant.

Buildings are found with old interiors and a more modern aspect on the exterior. On the outside, a XX century eclectic style is definitely predominant. Downtown is within the city’s historical center which is beneficial from a functional point of view as it is here that all animations, activities and most important urban functions take place. The streets plus sidewalk structure make the roads narrow particularly in the inner smaller alleys. Streets and roads broaden at occasions giving birth to spacious areas where very representative edifications are found, mostly important churches .

General Gomez and Avellaneda Streets
General Gomez and Avellaneda Streets

Something very typical in the historical center is that the open spaces, squares and small plazas, do not have green areas. However, from the air can be observed that the interior of buildings count with large private use spaces, of green presence in the form of interior gardens. In these patios many mud or clay large recipients are found, in the Andalucía style, to collect rainfall water. This is unique of this province in Cuba and are known as “tinajones”, the reason why Camagüey is also known as the “Ciudad de los Tinajones” ( City of the large earthenware jars ).

A walk by the historical center is a great experience: due to its typical urban structure, sight reaches great spaces and it is possible to admire different urban spaces, many of which count with churches or convents. To begin the promenade, it is recommended to start at the Plaza Mayor or ancient Arms Square, today also called the Ignacio Agramonte Park. Five main plazas are found in the city including the Plaza Mayor. From here and placed in the 4 cardinal points, the other 4 plazas can be reached: La Merced, San Francisco, San Juan de Dios and El Carmen, and in each, a church can be found. The squares of San Juan de Dios and El Carmen both maintain their original colonial ambiance. San Juan de Dios being the most characteristic one and the one with the most representative urban ensemble. The church in El Carmen Square counts with two towers, something very uncommon in the interior of Cuba.

The squares are great places to start any itinerary to visit the city because it is common to find visitors and people taking a break or simply walking by. The streets communicate the squares with the appearance of some parks, the only green spaces available in the city, with the exception of the known Country Casino, the only large green area in the city. If you wish to enjoy of tranquility to read or rest, the Casino offers an ambiance of green and intimacy .

carmen square
Carmen Square

Ten secondary plazas (Maceo, La Soledad, La Caridad, El Cristo, Santa Ana, Méndez, Habana, del Paradero, del Teatro Principal y San José), six with the presence of churches and seven with smaller plazas ( plazuelas): (Las Cinco Esquinas del Ángel, Bedoya, Triana, Pintor, San Clemente, Juana Castillo y Avellaneda), comprise the main interesting attractions in the city to be visited.

From a cultural point of view, several places are worthy of being visited. Among the museums it is recommended to visit the Birth Home of Nicolás Guillén, Cuba’s National poet, as well as the museums related to the life and work of Mayor Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz, the most important figure in Cuba’s independence feats and member of an important family of the community. These include three museums: the Museum – Birth Place of Ignacio Agramonte, a beautiful construction of the XVIII centry with a representative colonial patio of those times. The other is the Provincial Museum Ignacio Agramont also a XVIII century building with XIX and XX century furniture,. And the last museum is the Quinta Simoni, Ignacio Agramonte’s spouse.

It is also recommended to visit the Najasa Museum. This museum is not a building to exhibit anything but instead, it is a hilly area where numerous petrified remainders of trees are found. It is a natural site, truly impressive. After visiting this city, you may continue north and enjoy of Santa Lucia Beach, at some 110 kms with a short intermediate stop at Nuevitas.

Author: Martin Luis

Source: Umbrella Travel