CubaPLUS Magazine

Matanzas, capital of romanticism and culture

By: Alina Veranes
Dec 02, 2022
Matanzas, capital of romanticism and culture

The city of Matanzas, officially founded on October 12, 1693 on the northwestern coast of Cuba, is crossed by the Yumurí and San Juan rivers, while the spectacular Canímar  also flows into its beautiful bay.

This led its inhabitants to build 29 bridges to facilitate communication and transportation, four of which date from the colonial period and are still active. A sort of enchanted or romantic city appearance can be seen in many of its enclaves, perhaps because of its famous bridges and reflecting pools.

This provincial town is a backdrop, magnificent and sober at the same time, for the active life of its inhabitants today, who are not intimidated and instead bravely face the adversities that may come their way. Today Matanzas is proud, as always, of having been named The Athens of Cuba in 1870, due to the intense cultural life that flourished there since the beginning of the 19th century with the introduction of the printing press, the creation of newspapers and cultural institutions, the birth of poets, playwrights and musical creation.

The romantic playwright and poet José Jacinto Milanés, revered son and prophet in his land, was born in the city in 1814 and also died there in 1863, after having left a deep mark among the young intelligentsia of his time. His own life, dedicated in part to public service and tormented by an impossible love that they say drove him mad, is a source of legend and admiration.

Other illustrious intellectuals and poets from Matanzas have been Bonifacio Byrne (1861-1936) and Carilda Oliver Labra, already deceased, but whose centenary will be celebrated with reverence by all of Cuba this year. Matanzas is a prodigal land in notorious children. It would be unforgivable not to mention the brilliant black author and violinist Joseph White (1836-1918), who overcame the barriers of discrimination and racial prejudice.

From the ingenuity of the famous creator Miguel Ramón Demetrio Faílde was born the musical genre of the danzón, proclaimed long ago as the Cuban national dance music. From this he derived the no less renowned dance which also moved the whole island during his time.

But the city, along with Havana, is considered one of the founding centers of Rumba, recognized as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Located about 100 kilometers from the capital, Matanzas is also a kind of prelude on the way to the spectacular resort of Varadero.

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