With 420,000 inhabitants, Santiago de Cuba is the country's second largest city and Havana's long-time rival in literature, music and politics. The arrival of French settlers in the 19th century added yet another flavor to the diverse mix of Haitian, African and Spanish influences that make this cultural melting pot the most Caribbean of all Cuban cities. Santiagans of all backgrounds are bound together by their widespread reputation as happy, hospitable and laid back people.
Located on the southeast end of the island, Santiago de Cuba has a thick Spanish colonial air unspoiled by the imposing presence of the 1950s American high-rises ones finds in Havana. The city is home to the University de Oriente, one of Cuba's leading education institutions. You can enjoy beautiful beaches year-round and stroll through the large, natural harbour that has made Santiago an important port city for nearly five centuries.
Barbecue at local party
Cigar maker in Casa de la Trova
Historically important sites in Santiago de Cuba include its Cathedral--the oldest in Cuba (1522), and the world's first lithographic workshop, founded by Don Juan Meta and Tejada. Internationally distinguished cultural institutions such as 'La Antigua Filarónica' (later known as Sociedad Filarmónica Cubana), 'El Liceo de Santiago', and 'La Sociedad Beethoven' are also well worth a visit. Santiago's fine arts academies have contributed to making Santiago de Cuba what it is today: the birthplace of eminent musicians, a true cultural center and, historically, one of the most important cities in the Americas.
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