History of Camagüey, Cuba The history of Camagüey is very rich; this region has made many contributions to the country´s heritage since, among other aspects to highlight, is one of the first seven Cuban villages, founded in 1514 in a coastal town with the original name of Santa María del Puerto del Principe. Eventually it was reduced to Puerto Príncipe. Camagüey, aboriginal term which means son of the Camagua tree, has been its official name since 1903. Four Cuban Constitutional Assemblies have taken place in Camagüey. The first of all, on April 10, 1869, in the town of Guáimaro, served to approve and put into practice the first Cuban Constitution. The second was held in the fields of Jimaguayú, in 1895; the third one was celebrated in La Yaya, in 1897 and finally, in 2019, precisely 150 years after the first one, Guáimaro was the place where the four was signed. Keep reading if you want to know a little bit more about the fascinating history of this province.Read more... The beginnings The first reports referring to the Camaguey region, locate their settlement in Punta del Guincho, in the current municipality of Nuevitas, in the north of the province. The Spanish conquistadors decided to move to the banks of the Caonao river due to the lack of drinking water and insect pests. This place, also to the north, witnessed one of the most ruthless abuses against defenseless indigenous people, known in history as the Caonao massacre. Also there a rebellion took place that caused the transfer of the establishment for the second time, in 1528, towards the center of the territory: between the Tínima and Hatibonico rivers; the space where the city is in our days. The foundation date of the Villa de Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe is traditionally celebrated on February 2, 1514, day of the Virgin of Candelaria, the town´s patroness saint. To honor her, this day religious processions and festivals are celebrated. Known as "the city of the earthenware jars", Camagüey has a wide pottery tradition that has been preserved until today and has its most significant exponent in the elaboration of these receivers, which have been referenced since 1600. The settlers’ need of having effective water containers involved its massive manufacturing. During the seventeenth century several negative events disturbed the peace of the city inhabitants: the fire that completely destroyed it, and with it part of its history treasured in the archive, in addition to the pirate attacks that looted the town in 1668 and 1679. Due to the loss of urban planning regulations, the fact that the city is located between two winding rivers and that it did not have an effective fortification system, the locals decided, as a defensive strategy, to replace the medieval moat with both rivers and the non-existent wall by an extremely irregular urban layout, like a labyrinth, which makes it an exceptional case among the first settlements founded in Cuba. Puerto Príncipe had the scoop of having the Royal Audience in 1800, after its transfer from Santo Domingo. On November 12, 1817, the town was granted the title of the city and the right to use the coat of arms, recognition of its social and economic significance given by Spanish King Ferdinand VII. Starting in 1827, the island was divided into three departments: Oriental, Central and Occidental, whose capitals were Santiago de Cuba, Puerto Príncipe and Havana. On January 1, 1879, the new political-administrative division was put into practice and the jurisdiction of Puerto Príncipe became the civil province of the same name. From an early date, extensive livestock farming was outlined as its main source of wealth, which created the foundations of the province's livestock tradition and thus its consolidation as a highly relevant livestock center, an activity on which it was built a cattle bourgeoisie that treasured large estates, creating a lifestyle with very peculiar features that set it apart from the rest of the country. Puerto Príncipe, in relation to the west of the country, manifested a slow development of the sugar industry until the beginning of the 20th century, behaving as its second major activity, which generated that the delivery volumes to national production were very moderate as well as the introduction of technical advances of the time. Beneficiaries of the advantages of the railway, the first sugar mills were built in the northwest of the province. It is interesting to clarify that the Camagüey-Nuevitas section was the second to be inaugurated in Cuba after Havana-Bejucal. In the first half of the 19th century, the main streets and squares of Puerto Príncipe began to be paved with bricks or stones; they were cobblestone streets similar to those that can still be seen in Trinidad, but in 1921 the paving of the city began, which constitutes one of its most distinctive aspects and some of these cobblestones were brought from distant Norway. On the other hand, electric lighting arrived in Puerto Principe in 1890 and the old electric plant was operating until very recently. Camaguey during the wars of independence Before the 1868 and 1895 wars, Camagüey had already risen in arms in 1851 with the insurrection of Joaquín de Agüero, who was captured by Spanish troops and shot in the Méndez savannah with three comrades in struggle: Miguel Benavides, Fernando de Zayas and Tomás Betancourt. Camagüey was, without a doubt, one of the most important scenes of the Ten Years' War (1868-1878). In these lands, such relevant events occurred in the history of the nation such as the Constituent Assembly of Guáimaro, in April 1869, which led to the approval and promulgation of the First Constitution of Cuba in Arms. One of its signatories, Ignacio Agramonte, was the leader of the Cuban liberation army in this region. Considered one of the bravest chiefs, and recognized for his tactical knowledge in combat, he led fearsome charges with the machete at the head of his cavalry, among which stood out those carried out during the warlike actions of Cocal del Olimpo or the glorious rescue of the Brigade General Julio Sanguily Garrite, on October 8, 1871 which was one of the most significant examples of Agramonte's military and political conceptions. His death in combat on May 11, 1873 shocked the entire insurgent camp that, in addition to his military capacity, also felt admiration for his beautiful relationship with his wife Amalia Simoni, of which part of an admirable epistolary in conserved. In honor of his memory, the people of Camagüey are also known as Agramontinos. The most important combats fought in Camagüey, after the death of Agramonte, were led by Máximo Gómez and included other important Mambi chiefs such as Vicente García, Antonio Maceo, and Calixto García. The battle of Naranjo-Mojacasabe, the battle of Las Guásimas and the battle of Camujiro had great relevance during the years 1873-1874. Divisions within the troops, contradictions between the army and the House of Representatives, exhaustion and lack of external support ended the war in 1878, without achieving a satisfactory result for the Cuban troops, precisely in a town in Camagüey, in what is remembered in history as El Pacto del Zanjón. After various attempts to resume the fight, in 1895 hostilities finally broke down again and Camagüey would once again be a strategic point and the scene of notable struggles. The most important battles that were fought in Camagüey were those of Saratoga, led by Gómez again, and the taking of Guáimaro, by Calixto García, which was the culmination of the Cuban offensive by the end of 1896 which led the Spanish command to abandon practically all the cities of the interior of the territory and to concentrate the forces in the towns of Santa Cruz del Sur, Puerto Príncipe, Nuevitas and the railway line that connects these last two cities. The Constituent Assemblies of Jimaguayú were also held in these lands in 1895 and La Yaya in 1897; in addition, the Government Council of the Republic of Cuba resided on Camagüey fields, practically throughout the war. The independence struggles will end with the North American intervention in 1898. The History of Camagüey during the stage of the Republic. On May 20, 1902, the republican stage began, which did not see the insurgents' dreams of freedom fulfilled. The first North American occupation set the basis for Cuba's future dependence on the United States. On June 9, 1903, Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe changed its name to Camagüey. From 1913 to 1920, thirteen new sugar mills were erected in the territory, with their own population centers, and they had a significant take-off that caused the consequent increase in large estates in the first decades of that century. Seven of the major American financial groups controlled sixteen of the twenty-three sugar factories in the mid-1950s, in addition to the best land. All this resulted in the fact that, although Camagüey continued to be the most cattle-raising province in Cuba, the sugar industry displaced cattle as the main economic activity in the territory. This neocolonial stage was marked throughout the country by corrupt governments, a policy that generated in the population a feeling of rejection towards traditional parties, which largely explains the sympathy caused in the 1940s and early 1950s by Cuban Popular Party (Orthodox) and especially its leader Eduardo Chibás. Upon his death, Fulgencio Batista gave a coup on March 10, 1952 that plunged Cuba into a bloody tyranny. Youth leaders such as Cándido González, Álvaro Morell, Jesús Suárez Gayol, Ricardo Pérez Alemán, Pedro Martínez Brito and many more, led the fight against the Batista dictatorship united by the July 26 Movement since mid-1955. Many were the actions in the cities, including the assault on the Cellular Car, the burning of records in the Court, the systematic placement of bombs and firecrackers, and interruptions in the supply of electricity. The History of Camagüey during the revolutionary stage In the early hours of January 1, 1959, the effort of the rebel forces caused the tyrant Fulgencio Batista to flee and the invading columns to enter the towns and cities of the province. The barracks of the dictatorship were snatched away from tyranny and the revolutionary power was established to start a period of transcendental transformations of the national reality. In the particular case of Camagüey, the Victory Caravan made its triumphal entry into the city on January 4 of that same year, led by the historical leader of the Revolution, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, who was greeted with cheers and endearing popular affection. In 1976 a political-administrative division was carried out in which the country was divided into fourteen provinces. Camagüey gave rise to two of them: Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey, the latter being divided into the current thirteen municipalities. In 2010 another political-administrative division lengthened the number of provinces to 16, and Camagüey, although kept the same number of municipalities, ceded some territories to the province of Ciego de Ávila. After the revolutionary triumph, most of the livestock ran into state ownership after the application of the Agrarian Reform laws, thus beginning a development strategy throughout the country: the first state farms were created, introduced the crossing of races in order to achieve a high production of meat and milk for the food of the population, and cooperatives appear in the countryside, improving the living conditions of the peasantry. Large investment programs were carried out in the sugar industry from the 1970s, which made possible the construction of two new sugar mills. The municipality of Nuevitas was an example of the establishment of important industries in the province, which is why it came to be identified as an "industrial city". The port was modernized and works were built such as the 10 de Octubre Thermoelectric Plant, the 26 de Julio Cement Factory and the October Revolution Fertilizer Factory. The Ignacio Agramonte Mechanical Plants, the Oxygen and Nitrogen Plants and the Tínima brewery were built in the main municipality. The Provincial Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology was inaugurated on July 10, 1990 as part of the scientific-technical development of the territory which brought together with other investments an increase in gross industrial production, as well as the growth of the means of transportation, bridges, roads, dams and other significant facilities for the development of the country, among which the Ignacio Agramonte International Airport stands out, vital for the promotion of the tourist destination of Santa Lucía and the northern keys of the province.