Day Four and Five: Holguin, Home of the Castro Brothers
The next day was our only day at sea and a chance to enjoy the ship [description appears at the end of the Cuba articles] as we sailed east to Antilla, a small town and the port for Holguin Province where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, declaring Holguin “the most beautiful land ever seen by human eyes.”
At the turn off from the main road for Biran, a huge sign had a picture of Fidel and Raul. Upon seeing the sign, I reflecting that on this trip, I had seen more posters of Che Guevara than of Fidel.
I was surprised to learn that the Castros grew up on a large, prosperous estate of 23,000-acres with its own school which Fidel attended to age 8, a hotel for travelers passing through their land, a cock-fighting arena, stables, a large estate house, and a small family cemetery. The property, now a heritage site and museum, was the first to be nationalized after the 1959 Revolution. Both the schoolhouse and the estate house remain furnished as they were when the Castros lived there and its walls are adorned with an array of family photographs, particularly of Fidel as a child and a young man.
The Holguin region, rich in natural attractions, is seen as having potential for eco-tourism. To that end, several farms are being developed for camping while rustic accommodations are planned.
We visited such a farm with a thatch roof restaurant where we were greeted with music by a Cuban combo and enjoyed a Cuban lunch. Horses were available for riding.
Afterwards, we visited the farm where a short walk through sugar cane and banana groves brought us to a lovely shaded area where a feast of fresh fruits grown on the farm awaited us.
The farmer’s young son eagerly showed us how juice was extracted from sugar cane, turning the handles of an antique press as large as he was.
Our last stop was at the farmer’s house where we watched his wife pound freshly roasted coffee beans in an enormous mortar and pestle; we benefited from her labor with a delicious cup of Cuban coffee.
Later that the evening as our ship rounded the eastern end of Cuba where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, we felt the roll of the sea — the first and only time throughout the cruise we encountered anything other than seas so smooth in a ship so stable, you needed to walk around an open deck to realize we were sailing . Very early in the morning, we sailed passed Guatanamo on the southeast coast en route to Santiago de Cuba, our final port of call.
Cuba Cruise (http://www.yourcubacruise.com) has announced the coming season’s itinerary will include two nights in Havana and the Holguin call will be dropped – a hard choice.
NEXT: Day 6, Santiago de Cuba