Introducing Sancti Spíritus
Don't underestimate Sancti Spíritus. In any other country this attractive colonial city would be a cultural tour de force. But cocooned inside illustrious Sancti Spíritus province and destined to always play second fiddle to Trinidad, it barely gets a look-in. Of course, for many visitors therein lies the attraction. Sancti Spíritus is Trinidad without the tourist hassle. You can get served in a restaurant here and search for a casa particular without an uninvited assemblage of pushy 'guides' telling you that the owner is deceased, on vacation or living in Miami. You can also get decidedly comfortable sitting in Parque Serafín Sánchez watching talented kids play stickball while plaintive boleros (romantic love songs) infiltrate streets that never quite earned a Unesco listing.
Founded in 1514 as one of Diego Velázquez' seven original villas, Sancti Spíritus was moved to its present site on the Río Yayabo in 1522. But the relocation didn't stop audacious corsairs, who continued to loot the town until well into the 1660s.
While Trinidad gave the world Playa Ancón, filthy-rich sugar barons and jineteros (touts) on bicycles, Sancti Spíritus concocted the dapper guayabera (pleated, buttoned) shirt, the guayaba (guava) fruit and a rather quaint humpbacked bridge that wouldn't look out of place in Yorkshire, England.