Baracoa in Cuba’s far eastern Guantánamo Province has unique a history, location and environment. Founded in 1511, the city is the island’s oldest Spanish settlement and Cuba’s first capital. Historically, people could only visit Baracoa by sea or air with the first mountain-piercing road connection opening in the 1960s. Continue reading
On 4 October 2016 Hurricane Matthew struck far eastern Cuba, causing more the US$2.5 billion of damage. Amazingly and thankfully, no direct fatalities were recorded although 4 people died more than a month later when a bridge damaged by Matthew collapsed near Moa. The biggest single infrastructure impact around Baracoa was the destruction of the Moa-Baracoa Highway bridge over the River Toa.
While visiting in December 2016, a causeway was being constructed to allow vehicles to cross. In the interim, people crossed via boat and cable ferry as Rocío and I did to and from Alejandro de Humboldt National Park. Continue reading
The nine day mourning period following Fidel Castro’s death culminated with his 4 December 2016 funeral at Santiago de Cuba’s Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. A private affair, only family and select guests attended the event. Fidel’s ashes arrived to the cemetery early that morning having travelled for four days across Cuba from Havana. Continue reading
After 4 days caravanning across Cuba, Fidel’s ashes arrived to Santiago on 3 December 2016. That evening a second mass rally occurred. Unlike Havana’s international speakers, Santiago’s rally featured only Cuban orators. Some world leaders did attend though including Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and ex-presidents of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Soccer legend Diego Maradona and presidents Jakob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe were also in attendance although Rocío and I did not see them.
The Santiago rally arrangement and procedures were similar to Havana’s including the same master of ceremonies, although the speeches were more domestically focused. Continue reading
The morning after the 29 November 2016 memorial rally, Fidel’s ashes toured Havana, the beginning of a 4-day cross-country journey east to Santiago de Cuba. The route traced in reverse January 1959’s Caravan of Liberty when Fidel travelled from Santiago to Havana celebrating the end of the Batista dictatorship, the culmination of the Cuban Revolution.
Rocío and I witnessed Fidel’s ashes pass three times, once in Havana on 30 November and twice in Santiago on 3 and 4 December. On all occasions, people lined the streets in anticipation. Officials stood at regular intervals ensuring people remained off the road.
Old Havana, 30 November 2016
Early on 30 November we walked from our Old Havana accommodation to coastal Avenida del Puerto (San Pedro) for the caravan. Continue reading
The day after Fidel Castro’s wake, Rocío and I were back at Plaza de la Revolución for his Havana memorial public rally. With many thousands of people front of stage and world leaders at the back this was a huge, historic event. Following are photos and and my account of the event. Towards the end is Cuban newspaper coverage, video footage and the list of rally speakers.
Cuba’s national anthem La Bayamesa began the 4 hour long public memorial rally. Then Cuban actor Corina Mestre recited Rebel Army Victory March (Marcha triunfal del Ejército Rebelde) while black and white revolutionary period footage played on the big screens. Next, Master of Ceremonies, Robobaldo Hernández formally introduced the evening and the first foreign speaker, Ecuador’s then president, Rafael Correa. Continue reading
As mentioned in Granma, people could pay tribute to Fidel Castro on 28 and 29 November 2016 at the José Martí Memorial, part of Havana’s Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución). Not wanting to miss anything, on the morning of the 28th, Rocío and I caught an old American car from Old Havana. All roads near the plaza were closed so our expensive taxi fare provided even less value.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruiz was one of the most influential and controversial people of the 20th century. He led Cuba’s communist revolution, ruled the country for almost 50 years and inspired and assisted left-wing movements regionally and globally. Even after handing over presidency to his brother Raul in 2008, Fidel was still regarded as the most powerful person in Cuba.
Saturday was going to be another interesting but normal day exploring Havana for Rocío and I. Instead, in the morning our hosts informed us Fidel had died aged 90 at 10:29pm the previous night (Friday, 25 November 2016). Our plans changed.