Santiago 500: The balcony of a city

At just steps from Céspedes Park, in the heart of Santiago de Cuba, a sui generis site rises. Its walls save the sturdy decline of San Basilio Street, before the city to run into the sea. And although the waters have receded, the place is still located in a dominant position.

The Velázquez Balcony , maybe it should not be called that way. In more than one book it is stated that its structure is located where Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, El Adelantado, ordered to build the first fortress of the city. However, subsequent research suggests that this bastion was really made by Hernando de Soto, Governor of the nascent village afterwards. We are talking about almost virginal construction dates: 1538-1544.

Over the centuries, the fort underwent various adaptations, such as the building of a house in the eighteenth; its conversion into a barracks in the early twentieth-during the US intervention in the Island-, and later it became part of La Salle College, as stated in the Guide to Architecture of Eastern Cuba (Andalucía, 2002).

In 1930, the magazine Archipelago states that “(…) the loopholes that overlooked the bay falling into the Manga Chupa alley were preserved “. That narrow street, which official name seems lost forever, attests precisely that the foundations were solid. From there you can see now the remains of the original walls of the fortress. It overwhelms when touching these foundation stones .

Mayor Luis Casero Guillén ordered to demolish what was left and lift into place a colorful site, able to summarize the history of the founding of the city, on the basement, trace and inspiration from what existed, as historian Raul Ibarra remarked in the newspaper Oriente, in 1951. The last restoration dates from the late 1990s.

The Velazquez Balcony is a gazebo, which center is occupied by a large terrace, which is up to about eight feet above the level of the road. Three arches allow access to the site through Corona Street, with a flat roof and facade of military appearance. Shields, lamps and elaborate ironwork complete the atmosphere.

Naturally, the site looks out over one of the most enchanting views of Santiago de Cuba. The houses are tightened and go down like an amphitheater. The scenery of the bay and mountains is silhouetted in the pupil of those coming for the first time, but it also makes no indifferent to those repeating.

The Velázquez Balcony calls for sustained cultural animation, beyond the occasional photograph or short stay to take a souvenir. Crossing its threshold is a return to memory. Its uniqueness challenges.

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