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The first seven villas in Cuba ... and an eighth

The first seven villas in Cuba ... and an eighth

Cuba is full of charming cities, which preserve the legacy of its inhabitants for centuries and generations. Many have become true contemporary museums, where ancient traditions and customs survive.

But they are the first seven towns, founded between 1511 and 1519 during the beginning of the Spanish conquest and colonization, obligatory points of reference when talking about living museums of colonial history.

These primate settlements were established throughout the Cuban geography: Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa (year 1511), San Salvador de Bayamo (1513), La Santísima Trinidad (1514), Sancti Spíritus (1514), Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe (1514), Santiago de Cuba (1515) and San Cristóbal de La Habana (1519), or simply Baracoa, Bayamo, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba and Havana, as they are known today. San Juan de los Remedios (Remedios), founded in 1515, although not by Diego Velázquez, is called the Eighth Villa, another colonial jewel of the Island.


The first town of Cuba, baptized on August 15, 1511, was located in a port on the northeastern coast of the province of Guantánamo, 900 kilometers from Havana. It was declared political and ecclesiastical capital by the Adelantado Diego Velázquez, and in it is the first cathedral that Cuba had. The Cruz de Parra, one of the 29 planted by Christopher Columbus in America, is preserved in this small city.

It has a splendid and seductive nature, surrounded by great mountains and with the Caribbean Sea at its feet, and it is surrounded by more than 60 architectural sites of the Taino culture, a pre-Columbian civilization now extinct.


Capital of the eastern province of Granma, 840 kilometers from Havana, founded by Diego Velázquez on November 5, 1513. Its varied architecture is made up of squares, stately mansions and an ancient cathedral, buildings that survived the fire in the town in 1969 from the hands of its own settlers.

This city, a National Monument, is the Cradle of the Cuban Nationality. In her was born Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Father of the Nation; It was the First Republic in Arms during the independence struggles and in its streets the National Anthem was heard for the first time.


Its foundation dates from the beginning of 1514 and is located in the central region of the island, 275 kilometers from Havana, it belongs to the province of Sancti Spíritus. Thanks to its rich geography, it reached a great economic boom linked to sugar during the 18th and 19th centuries, which allowed it an architectural expansion that would leave its mark forever.

Thanks to the splendor of yesteryear, Trinidad currently has one of the most perfect, beautiful and best-preserved architectural ensembles in America, which is why it is considered the Museum City of Cuba. It was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1988.

Sancti Spíritus

This town, founded by Diego Velázquez in June 1514, is the capital of the province of the same name. It was established on the banks of the Yayabo River, whose Roman-style bridge is the emblem of this city.

Sancti Spíritus is today an authentic colonial city that keeps centuries of traditions in its churches, museums, large houses and old streets. This is a land of troubadours, this genre and many of its representative figures being one of the greatest contributions of this land to Cuban culture. A popular legend also tells that this is where the famous garment known as guayabera was born.


This town belongs to the province of Camagüey, 535 kilometers from Havana and is its current capital. It was founded on February 2, 1514. Its urban layout is the most asymmetrical of all the towns. Its streets sometimes resemble a labyrinth and in some places a spider web where it is easy to lose orientation. From the seventeenth century it was one of the richest localities on the island. The Plaza de San Juan de Dios -the most representative of the colonial period due to its architecture-, the Iglesia de la Soledad and La Merced, date back to this century. that treasures the largest piece of silver on the Island.

It is also known as Ciudad de los Tinajones: these huge containers proliferated as the most popular way to store water for a long time, due to the climatic conditions of the region. Even today they are preserved in many houses of the time.

Santiago de Cuba

Capital of the province of the same name, located 860 kilometers from Havana. Since its founding in 1515, the administrative center of the Island was located there, until such functions passed to the city of Havana. It has a well-earned reputation for being the most Caribbean of Cuban cities, mainly because of the cultural amalgamation of Africans, French, Haitians, Spaniards, and Antilleans in general that it exhibits.

The house where Don Diego Velázquez lived, one of the oldest on the island, is preserved in it. In its bay, the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, a World Heritage Site, was once the guardian guard of the city before possible marine incursions. Likewise, the French Tomb, a dance of Afro-Haitian descent, is one of its most conserved intangible heritages through generations and declared by Unesco a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


After passing through several previous locations, the capital of the Island of Cuba was settled forever in its current location, next to the port of Carenas. Its foundation as a town is recognized on November 16, 1519. In the style of colonial architecture, the Plaza de Armas centered the official and public life of the town during the Colony.

Thanks to its excellent port and its strategic position, Havana became the main Spanish naval station in the New World and has managed to preserve, like few American cities, the architectural heritage of its colonial past. In it stand palaces, colonial mansions, squares, cobbled streets, churches, fortresses and fragments of old walls.

Old Havana, where the city began to germinate, is today one of the best-preserved architectural ensembles in America. Its historic urban center and its fortification system were declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1982.

Remedios, the eighth village

San Juan de los Remedios was founded on June 24, 1515, the day of the saint that gives it its name. It is one of the best-preserved cities in Cuba, and its balconies, portals and bars bear the stamp of authentic Caribbean colonial architecture.

The most distinctive element of the region are its famous Parrandas, annual celebrations that begin on December 24 and are attended by people from all over the island. The Parrandas de Remedios are recognized as one of the three most prominent Cuban popular festivals, along with carnivals of Santiago de Cuba and the brass bands of Bejucal. They are so important that there is a museum dedicated to this phenomenon in the city: The Parrandas Museum, since April 1980.

Remedios has a very unique square, because it is the only one in the country with two churches: Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje and the Parroquial Mayor de San Juan Bautista. In the latter there is a sculpture of the Immaculate Conception, pregnant, which is said to be unique in the world.

From East to West of the Cuban archipelago, the colonial villas are one of the greatest charms that the traveler finds. A special recommendation to take into account in future adventures. 

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