Varadero, also referred to as Playa Azul (Blue Beach), is a resort town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, and one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean. Varadero Beach was rated one of the world’s best beaches in TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards of 2019, ranking at number two.
Common activities include fishing and excursions to Matanzas, Cárdenas, and the Península de Zapata.
Before the arrival of the Spanish and it’s evident invasion, the land that later became Varadero was inhabited by the Siboney indians, who belong to the indigenous tribes of Cubacanán.
Predictably, the influx of Spanish invaders meant destruction of tribal land, tribal religion & tribal culture. Spanish colonialist were especially brutal with the Siboney Indians & forced Christian conversions were omnipresent.
A place of special interest, for both foreign tourists and Cuban in this area, is the San Ambrosio cave. The mysterious walls of this cave are covered with drawings and geometrical designs made by these indians, hundreds of years ago.
The land was forever changed with the arrival of the African slaves: these mysterious caves are a great testimony of their -presence, as they were appropiated by the newcomers and used for conducting their religious rites. Nowadays, the entire province is a eco-cultural centre, where important literary and musical manifestations take place.
The Spanish influence in the region is also very robus and can be seen in the customs, architecture, gastronomy and culture in general. The exploitation of the long coastal salt mines in Las Salinas by the Spanish invaders began in 1587 CE. The city of Matanzas was established in 1693 CE. Some say that name pays ironic tribute to the Indians massacred by the Spanish murders, although there are other theories maintaining that the name technically alludes to the killing of hundred of Spanish invaders by European pirates who tried to raid Cuba and the neighboring regions. Matanzas was previously known as the Athens of Cuba. It is now called city of bridges (“ciudad de los puentes”), because of its different bridges. Two big lakes run through this lovely place, San Juan and Yumurí.
Historic Sites in Varadero
- Mansión Xanadu is hotel and restaurant that was formerly a three-story mansion built by an American millionaire, Alfred Irénée Dupont de Nemours. Construction on this mansion cost Dupont $338,000. After the revolution in 1959, Dupont escaped Cuba and left the villa to the Cuban government. In 1963 it was named ‘Las Américas’, converting it to a luxury restaurant that served French cuisines. The dining room still has original furniture.
- Parque Retiro Josone, located on Avenida Primera y Calle 56, was established in 1942 by José Iturrioz, the Managing Director of the Arechabala Ronera which is the rum factory just outside Cárdenas.
- The Museo Municipal de Varadero located on Calle 57. Furniture and history are displayed in what used to be Leopoldo Abreu’s summer home in the 1920s
History – Varadero (Summary)
Varadero was mentioned for the first time in 1555. The place was first used as a dry dock (Spanish: varadero) and the salt mines of the peninsula (closed in 1961) supplied most of the Spanish Latin America Fleet since 1587. However, the foundation date of Varadero as city was only on December 5, 1887, when ten families from the city of Cárdenas obtained a permission to build their vacation homes between today’s 42nd and 48th Street. Varadero village came about in the 1880s as a summer resort. The first homes with red-roof’s made of wood can still be seen along Avenida 1ra.
It was established as a municipality (Spanish: municipio) at the administrative re-distribution of July 3, 1976 from territories previously part of Cárdenas. In August 2010, the Varadero municipality was abolished according to a Law approved by the Cuban National Assembly, becoming again part of the Cárdenas municipality.