History of Sancti Spíritus in Cuba

Yayabo Bridge over the Yayabo River

Sancti Spíritus is a mystical municipality and capital town of the province of Sancti Spíritus located in central Cuba and one of the oldest Cuban European settlements. Sancti Spíritus is the genitive case ( noun case which is used principally to show possession) of Latin Sanctus Spiritus (“Holy Spirit”).

History – Sancti Spíritus

Native Americans had occupied the land for around 1500 years before the colonization. Burial Grounds prove the existence of a complex Native American Society here. Initially, the tribes were Hunter-Gatherers who moved to agriculture 1000-years-ago. Most of the tribes were wiped out by diseases and by the atrocities committed by the colonialists. It is said that around 135 tribes are extinct in the region, and the Ancient Culture and Rituals of Sancti Spíritus are almost lost.

Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded the city in 1514 CE.

The town contributed men for Hernan Cortes’ 1518 CE expedition to Mexico, including Gonzalo de Sandoval, Alonso Hernandez Puertocarrero, and Juan Velazquez de Leon.

Francisco Iznaga, a Basque landowner in the westernmost portion of Cuba during the first thirty years of the Cuban colonization, was chosen mayor of Bayamo in 1540 CE. Iznaga was the originator of a powerful lineage that finally settled in Sancti Spíritus and Trinidad, Torre Iznaga (Iznaga Tower). His descendants fought for the freedom of Cuba and for annexation to the U.S. from 1820 CE to 1900 CE.

Historical Ruins – Sancti Spíritus

The Parroquial Mayor is situated two blocks south of the city’s main square; it is a grand green-towered church whose ancient 16th-century CE origins make it the nation’s oldest. Nearby is the Colonial Art Museum (Museo de Arte Colonial), one of Sancti Spíritus’s most charming colonial homes and a beautiful attraction. The opulent former stately mansion of the Valle Iznaga clan, one of Cuba’s most royal families who fled Cuba after Fidel’s Communist Revolution, became the state’s property in 1961 CE. Ninety percent of what you observe inside, from paintings to furniture, is original.

The Parroquial Mayor, Cuba’s oldest church, in Sancti Spiritus center

Though the family obviously kept an extraordinary collection of French gilded mirrors, Limoges porcelain, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, and Italian marble tables, it wasn’t their primary residence; the house was mostly used to host family members in transit, so the furnishings were rather complex. The three bedrooms are furnished in grand style, with embroidered sheets, handmade lace, and hand-painted glass. There is a superb and very Cuban leather smoking chair (sillón fumador) and, in the music room, the mid-18th-century CE American piano, one of only two of its kind in Cuba.

Present-Day Sancti Spíritus

The town now serves as the commercial center of a fertile agricultural quarter that produces tobacco, sugarcane, and dairy products. It lies on the nation’s Central Highway about 30 miles (50 km) from its port, Trinidad.

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