Holidays in Matanzas
Matanzas is a region of Cuba noted for its fierce independence and unique cultural forms. Visitors to Matanzas will explore majestic theatres and colonial-era cathedrals, sway to the beat of rumba music, and get a peek into the past of a truly fascinating region of Cuba.
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Matanzas (meaning killings in English) received its name from the rebel spirit of its first inhabitants. In the colonial era, some 30 Spanish conquistadores attempted to cross one of the city's three rivers to attack an aboriginal camp, recruiting the help of native fishermen. But once the fishermen reached the middle of the river, they flipped their boats, and the conquistadors sunk to a watery death, weighed down by their heavy metal armour. It is from this act of rebellion that the city takes its name: "matanzas" translates to "massacre." Despite the rather gruesome origins, today the city's charm is bound to enchant even the most sceptical visitors.
Situated on the east of Havana, Matanzas is a province known for its unique cultural flair and fiercely independent spirit. It includes Varadero, one of Cuba's most popular resorts; Cardenas City; Peninsula de Zapata; and Playa Giron. Though Matanzas isn't the opulent urban centre it once was, remnants of its glory remains, and they are without a doubt captivating.
The lush Matanzas region was once home to expansive sugar plantations, and visitors will still find elegant plantation homes with sophisticated white columns dotting the surrounding countryside. African slaves were used as plantation labourers and comprised a substantial component of Matanzas's population. The city is still home to a large Afro-Cuban population, and this heavy African influence has given rise to a number of unique cultural forms. The city is the birthplace of two quintessentially Cuban musical forms, danzon and rumba, as well as religions like Santeria and the secret Abakua fraternity.
Visitors to Matanzas city (capital of the province with the same name) won't want to miss the Teatro Sauto. Opened in 1863, it is a national monument of Cuba and was hailed by Mexican painter Diego Riviera as the defining symbol of the city. A hand-painted ceiling and a lobby decked out in marble Greek goddesses welcomes visitors to the theatre, which has been graced by the presence of renowned Soviet ballerinas, such as Anna Pavlova. The theatre is arguably Cuba's most splendid theatre and is world-renowned for its outstanding acoustics. The 17th century Cathedral of San Carlos De Borromeo provides a fascinating example of colonial architecture, while the Museo Historico Provincial de Matanzas is perfect for those who want to take a peek into Matanzas's fascinating past.
Matanzas is easily accessible from Havana. Just hop on the Via Blanca (White Way) for a direct route. An added bonus? The trip runs right along one of Cuba's most scenic highways, which affords beautiful views of the coast and the Valle de Yumuri.
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