Parque Céspedes

sights / Parks & gardens

Parque Céspedes information

Santiago de Cuba , Cuba
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If there's an archetype for romantic Cuban street life, Parque Céspedes is it. A throbbing kaleidoscope of walking, talking, hustling, flirting, guitar-strumming humanity, this most ebullient of city squares, with the bronze bust of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes , the man who kick-started Cuban independence in 1868, at its heart, is a sight to behold any time of day or night.

Old ladies gossip on shady park benches, a guy in a panama hat drags his scarred double bass over toward the Casa de la Trova, while sultry señoritas in skin-tight lycra flutter their eyelashes at the male tourists on the terrace of the Hotel Casa Granda. Parque Céspedes is also, aside from a jarring modernist bank on its west side, a treasure trove of colonial architecture.

The Casa de la Cultura Miguel Matamoros , on the square's eastern aspect, is the former San Carlos Club, a social center for wealthy santiagüeros until the Revolution. Next door British novelist Graham Greene once sought literary inspiration in the terrace-bar of the Hotel Casa Granda (1914). The neoclassical Ayuntamiento , on the northern side of the square, was erected in the 1950s using a design from 1783 and was once the site of Hernán Cortés' mayoral office. Fidel Castro appeared on the balcony of the present building on the night of January 2, 1959, trumpeting the Revolution's triumph.