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Baracoa’s history

21/08/2009 17:41 Translated by Gladys Carmen Quintana Centeno 6524
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Admiral Christopher Columbus arrived in Baracoa on November 27, 1492. He found a nature full of beauty, friendly and developed Arawacks descendant people, and an elevation described in his diary as "high and square mountain looking like an island."

On August 15 of 1511 Diego Velázquez founded "Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa" village on a port on the Eastern northern coast called Baracoa - meaning "high land" in the Arawacks´ language - by the indigenous people, which came to be the first Spanish settlement on the island. Velázquez built his residence here and declares the place the political capital. He appointed mayors to exercise ordinary civil justice and a Main Mayor. He also established a City Council for the care and development of the town; gave the title of city to Baracoa and made it the capital of the ecclesiastical government building what was the first bishopric in Cuba.

Hatuey, an indian from the Dominican lands came to warn Cuban natives and to show them the path of struggle against the conquerors, must have been burned not far from these region. His example helped to incite rebellion. In 1514 a chieftain from Baracoa rose up taking refuge in the intricate hills of the region.

Guamá was, until 1534 when he was assassinated, an avenging whip to all the injustices made against his people.

In 1515 the political, economic and religious capital was transferred to Santiago de Cuba. Since then Baracoa plunged into a period of oblivion in which it was easy bait for repeated corsair and pirate attacks.

From the first half of the thirteenth century on, by royal decree, a defense system of the city encouraged by the increase of privateering and piracy and their impact on trade as well as by the increase of rivalries between Spain and England was established. Between 1739 and 1742 three major forts were built: the Matachín Fort in the southeastern part of the city; of La Punta Fort in the northern part; and the Castle of Seboruco on south-west.

In the late eighteenth century more than one hundred French families, in successive waves until 1804, came to Baracoa running away from the Haitian Revolution. They encouraged honey production and scrape sugar cane production, introduced new techniques for the growth of the coffee-plant which they also spread in Cuba together with the extraction of coconut oil and the exploit of banana, which all provided a moderate economic upswing in the region.

On September 20, 1838 the coat was given to the city of Baracoa by order of Queen Maria Cristina of Habsburg and Lorraine. "OMNIUN CUBE URBIUM EXIGUA TAMET SI TEMPORE PRIMA FERENS" read the words on its lower end, a tight expression that reads in essence: "Although tiny among the towns of Cuba, you are however the first one in time."

Some events announced the prelude of the independence war in Baracoa. In 1852 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was deported to this city, where he stayed for five months, by order of the General Captain of the Island. Baracoa is a land of historical landings even before the start of the liberation struggles. In 1854, an expedition- which was finally frustrated by a denunciation- organized and led by De´ Strampes tried to land on these shores.

The legendary figure of Antonio Maceo is inextricably linked to the local history. In 1876 and 1877, almost at the end of the Great War (explanatory note), he showed his military skills during the seizure of the villages of Baracoa and Sabanilla respectively. His landing to restart the fight for independence after almost twenty years later was also carried out by the coasts of Baracoa, near Duaba on April 1srt, 1895. El Alto del Pino, a few kilometers from the city, was the first victorious battle in the 1895 War.

Major events of this stage are the expeditions of Generals Francisco Sánchez on August 18, 1895, and Calixto García on March 24, 1896.