Camaguey Tourist Attractions
The inland city of Camaguey is often overlooked by travelers but is a charming place, loaded with Colonial architecture and complete with an active cultural scene. Camaguey is home to one of Cuba's largest universities, the Universidad de Camaguey, giving the city a lively atmosphere. The town also has a number of attractions worth exploring with churches, old homes that have been turned into museums, and a number of historic sites.The town was originally settled as Nuestra Senora de Santa Maria del Puerto Principe on the Bay of Nuevitas. However, attacks from Indians and pirates eventually drove the town to relocate to its present location inland, and it was renamed Camaguey.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced
The Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced is the most interesting and impressive church in Camaguey and home to the silver Holy Sepulcher. The history of the church dates to 1601 when the first Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced was built. According to legend a figure appeared on this spot and the miraculous event led to the building of the church. In the middle of the 18th Century it was rebuilt with a church and convent. Later reconstructions also took place but the church today maintains a Baroque façade. The interior boasts some beautiful and unique looking murals.Beneath the church are the catacombs, which are entered near the main altar. People were buried in the catacombs until 1814. Visitors will see the usual bones and skulls typical in catacombs, along with the old wooden bell tower which is now stored down here.The most prized possession of the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced is the Holy Sepulcher, a silver coffin made from 23,000 silver coins donated by followers. The Holy Seplucher contains an 18th Century Christ statue, created by Juan Benitez Alfonso, a Mexican sculptor.
Plaza San Juan de Dios (Plaza del Padre Olallo)
Plaza San Juan de Dios, also referred to as Plaza del Padre Olallo, is generally regarded as the most beautiful square in Camaguey. Much of the square has undergone restoration and is remarkably well preserved. It is surrounded by pastel colored colonial architecture, which includes small single story buildings, and the Iglesia y Hospital de San Juan de Dios, a national monument. Built as a church with attached hospital in the first half of the 18th Century, this historic building is now the Direccion Provincial de Patrimonio and Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad.The Iglesia de San Juan de Dios is most noteworthy for the original floors and ceiling and for its use of the Holy Trinity as the central image, something unique for Latin America. The Hospital de San Juan de Dios has had a long and varied history, being used as a military infirmary, a teachers college, a hurricane shelter, and now as a health institute.
Birthplace of Nicolas Guillen
Casa Natal de Nicolas Guillen is the birthplace of Afro mullato poet Nicolas Guillen, although he only lived here for the first two years of his life. Camaguey's obvious reverence of Ignacio Agramonte often overshadows other noteworthy individuals who have come from this town and Nicolas Guillen is no exception. He was born here at this location in 1902 and went on to start an Afro-Cuban poetry school and became Cuba's most renowned poet. The Casa Natal de Nicolas Guillen is now primarily an arts and cultural school but does pay tribute to this man. On display is information on his life and his accomplishments, and some of his poetry can be found on the walls.
Ignacio Agramonte Provincial Museum
The Museo Provincial Ignacio Agramonte is housed in the 1848 building used as the headquarters of the Spanish army cavalry barracks. In the first half of the 20th Century the building was renovated and turned into the Hotel Camaguey, although cannons and other remnants from the headquarters remained.Today the Museum Provincial Ignacio Agramonte makes good use of this building with exhibitions on the history of the area, including archeological artifacts, natural history displays, art displays, and more. The main draw for the museum is the fine arts collection, considered to be among the best in Cuba, and includes three works by Cuban artist Fidelio Ponce.
Parque Casino Campestre
Southeast of Camaguey's city center, on the eastern side of the Rio Hatibonico is the Parque Casino Campestre. Originally, in the 19th Century, the park was used for cattle shows and agricultural exhibits, as well as to host regional fairs and festivals. Today Parque Casino Campestre has been turned into a typical park, where people come to relax and converse. Monuments have been added to the park, including tributes to Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, the Unknown Soldier, and to the teaching professionals.Also of interest is the monument dedicated to Barberan and Collar, the two pilots to complete the first transatlantic flight. It was unveiled in 1941 to commemorate this 39 hour and 55 minute flight from Seville to Camaguey.
Birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte
Casa Natal de Ignacio Agramonte was the birthplace of Camaguey's greatest hero. Ignacio Agramonte was born here in 1841 and was killed in battle at the age of 32. It is impossible to visit Camaguey without seeing reference to this man. Agramonte, a local farmer, led a revolt against the Spanish.The Casa Natal de Ignacio Agramonte was built in the mid 1700s and is now a museum and tribute to this independence war hero. On display are some of Agramonte's personal items, including his pistol, as well as some possessions that belonged to his wife who was also a well-regarded citizen in Camaguey.
Camaguey's cathedral, Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, located on Parque Ignacio Agramonte, was built originally in the early 18th Century but was reconstructed on several occasions. The cathedral's appearance today is from work done in 1864. After Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, money was donated to renovate the Cathedral which is today in quite good shape.The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria is named for the town's patron saint, Our Lady of Candelaria. The most striking feature is the huge bell tower, capped with a statue of Christ. The cathedral is most impressive from the outside.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
At the corner of Republica and Agramonte stands the large brick Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad. Built in 1776 this Cuban baroque church witnessed both the baptism and wedding of local hero Ignacio Agramonte. It is the oldest church in the town of Camaguey. Although this may not be the most impressive church in Camaguey, it does have some unique features. Some of the most noteworthy aspects of Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad are the painted friezes on the arches and pillars. It also boasts a beautiful carved wooden ceiling, although access to the interior of the church is difficult, with sporadic hours.
Parque Ignacio Agramonte
In the southern end of Camaguey's historic city center is the Parque Ignacio Agramonte. Unmistakable for the equestrian statue of Agromonte by Italian sculptor Salvatore Boemi, the park is a well kept area and a good location to sit and relax. Marble benches line the park. Surrounding Parque Ignacio Agramonte are the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, the Palacio Collado, El Cambio, Casa de la Trova Patricio Ballagas, and the Biblioteca Julio Antonio Mella.On each corner of this square a palm tree was planted to commemorate nationalist who were killed here in 1851.