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The Foundation of the Northeastern Cuban City of Holguin

loma-cruz abg11 copiaThe foundation of the Cuban city of Holguin turned into a long process that almost started with the conquest and settlement of the first Spaniards in this northeastern territory. Bartolome Bastidia was one of the first settlers in the site where many years later would be founded the city.

Bastidia sold his properties and the encomienda** to Diego de Lorenzana and to Francisco Garcia Holguin, the later one inspired the place's name. The life of Garcia Holguin is closer to the city of Holguin much more to legend than to true facts.

parque-calixto-garcia-periquera amauris06Garcia Holguin left Cuba for Mexico, where he placed a key role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. As Cuba was then lowly populated, the first Spanish colonizers felt attracted by the richness in the American continent, thus Garcia Holguin returned to his hato and raised a family that inherited the cattle farm after he passed away; at least this is what local historiography says.


However, this is one of the largest debated issues by local historians mainly. The luck of this conquistador in my opinion is little important, because his most significant contribution was baptizing Holguin with his last name; but he might also seen as the first one to give sustenance and support to the locals that for several reasons were forced to emigrate or live somewhere else in the country.


If he did returned from Mexico, he was I indeed faithful to this land, because he then changed the richness found in Mexico for the poor Cuban hato (farm).


The territory that would give seat to the city and jurisdiction of Holguin was included in the municipality of Bayamo, and was baptized High Lands of Maniabon or Northern Coast of Bayamo. The place was very slowly populated mainly by people coming over possibly from Bayamo, as well as aboriginals and a few Africans. By 1719 the place was barely inhabited by about 450 people. Cattle raising and later tobacco growing were the two main branches of the local economy. Just a few settlements were then found, and with little importance, on of them was Managuaco, founded – according to tradition in October 5fth, 1692 - around a chapel.


The construction of the chapel meant it was a settlement with a little significance – baring in mind the parameters of the time – which led to the attention of the Church. But Holguin dwellers kept on dreaming of building a town.


Then Bartolome de Silva y Tamayo, who had to visit the place as a mayor of Bayamo that urged some neighbors to live together in one specific place, which they chose the site of today's city of Holguin.


However, there is no specific date of the construction of the town. According to historian Jose Novoa Betancourt between 1717 to 1719 the town had a first push for the construction of the town, but that was officially made in 1720. By 1726, the scattered houses had a church, and seventy hatched roofed houses, which gave accommodation to about 300 persons.


The governor of the eastern department approved in 1726 the institution of the Lieutenant Governor and captain of war. In 1752 Holguin finally became a municipality. In that time, the 1291 persons residing over the place belonged to the newly created municipality. With the passing of time Holguin town went growing until becoming one of the country's largest populated cities.


Mayra San Miguel, Hernel Perez y Jose Novoa Betancourt Síntesis Histórica Municipal de Holguin, Ediciones Holguin e editora Historia La Habana, 2010.

Jose Novoa Betancourt Contribucion a la Historia colonial de Holguin 1752 1823, Ediciones Holguin, 2001.


The encomienda** was the control granted to a colonist over land and Indians to work for him.



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