Santiago de Cuba

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba (säntyä´ŧħā kōō´bä), city (1994 est. pop. 385,800), capital of Santiago de Cuba prov., SE Cuba. Cuba's second largest city, Santiago is situated on a cliff overlooking a bay. The city is a major port and the terminus of a major highway and railway. An oil refinery and electrical generation plants are also important to economy. Founded in 1514 by Diego de Velázquez and moved to its present site in 1588, Santiago served for some time as Cuba's capital. In its early days, it was captured by French and English buccaneers and was a center of the smuggling trade with the British West Indies. Frenchmen fleeing the slave revolt in Haiti in the early 19th cent. settled in Santiago and heavily influenced the city's development. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, U.S. ships established a blockade in Santiago's harbor; when the Spanish admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, bottled up in the harbor, made a desperate attempt to escape, his fleet was destroyed. Heavy fighting preceded the city's surrender. Fidel Castro began his revolutionary struggle against Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar by attacking the Moncada army garrison in Santiago on July 26, 1953. In 2012 Santiago suffered extensive damage from a hurricane. The city retains many colonial landmarks, notably its cathedral (the largest in Cuba) and the crumbling forts that stand on high cliffs above the harbor. It also has a university.

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