Plaza De Marte Or Plaza De La Libertad
Plaza Marte (or Plaza de la Libertad) is an open square which sits on a hill at the top of the Old Town, and most visitors to downtown Santiago de Cuba probably won't venture much further afield on foot.
The liberty referred to in the square's alternative name is the result of the War of Independence from the Spanish in 1898, as opposed to the more recent revolution. The 20-metre (66 ft) column in the centre of the square, surrounded by four bronze cannons and topped with a red cap, is dedicated to the Cuban Liberation Army. The name and the column are highly symbolic: in the 19th century, prior to independence, the square was used by the Spanish for the public execution of political prisoners and revolutionaries.
The square is laid out with six flower beds, colonnaded pergolas at either end and a couple of granite-topped stage areas for concerts, speeches and other public spectacles of a more modern nature.
Commemoration of National Heroes
In the square are three statues dedicated to Cuban national heroes. The first, Perucho Figueredo, was the author of the Cuban National Anthem. Major General Francisco Sánchez Hechavarría was the first elected governor of Oriente Province and Dr. Joaquin Castillo Duany was a Brigadier General, a noted surgeon and researcher and - remarkably - the first Cuban explorer to reach the North Pole (in 1881).
Of course, no Cuban city would be complete without a statue to José Martí, Cuba's Independence hero, who is buried a few miles away at Santiago's Santa Ifigenia cemetery. Also present are Captain Montes de Oca and Commander Camilo Cienfuegos, the latter being Che Guevara's sidekick from the days of the Revolution.
Plaza de Marte today
These days, Plaza de Marte is one of several city squares (notable others being Plaza Dolores and Parque Cespedes) where Santiagueros meet, flirt, enjoy concerts on public holidays or anniversaries of revolutionary successes, and celebrate or commiserate the fortunes of the local baseball team against arch rivals, Industriales of Havana.
An evening's stroll in Plaza de Marte or one of the other squares is an ideal way to watch Cubans at leisure as they preen and promenade while catching up with friends and the neighbourhood gossip at the end of the day.
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