Santiago de Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba and the capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province. It lies in the southeastern area of the island, some 870 km (540 mi) southeast of the Cuban capital of Havana.

The municipality extends over 1,023.8 km2 (395.3 sq mi), and contains the communities of Antonio Maceo, Bravo, Castillo Duany, Daiquirí, El Caney, El Cobre, El Cristo, Guilera, Leyte Vidal, Moncada and Siboney.

Historically Santiago de Cuba was the second-most important city on the island after Havana, and remains the second-largest. It is on a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and an important sea port. In the 2022, the city of Santiago de Cuba recorded a population of 507,167 people.

 Santiago de Cuba in 1856 by French-born Édouard Laplante and Leonardo Barañano. Firestone Library, Princeton University.[1] 1859 watercolor of Santiago de Cuba's plains by British geologist James Gay Sawkins

Santiago de Cuba was the seventh village founded by Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar on July 25, 1515. The settlement was destroyed by fire in 1516, and was immediately rebuilt. This was the starting point of the expeditions led by Juan de Grijalba and Hernán Cortés to the coasts of Mexico in 1518, and in 1538 by Hernando de Soto's expedition to Florida. The first cathedral was built in the city in 1528. From 1522 until 1589, Santiago was the capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

The city was plundered by French forces in 1553, and by English forces in 1603. More than 50 years later the English raided again in 1662 under Christopher Myngs.

The city had a huge influx of French and British immigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Some eighteen thousand Saint Dominican refugees, both ethnic French whites and free people of color, and African freedmen, came from Saint-Domingue in the summer of 1803 during the last days of the Haitian slave revolt, which had started in 1791.[2] Other refugees had emigrated from Saint-Domingue earlier in the revolution. Haiti declared its independence as a republic in 1804.

The French were withdrawing surviving troops after suffering heavy losses from warfare and yellow fever. The immigrants, who included freedmen as France had abolished slavery on Saint-Domingue, struggled to maintain their freedom in Cuba, which was still a slave society. Cuba initially allowed only white refugees, women of color, children, and loyal "domestics" to land; French troops and all men of color over the age of thirteen were held off shore, to be rapidly deported to the mainland, as they were considered a revolutionary threat.[2] Some French soldiers joined other refugees in Charleston, South Carolina, or New York City; others went to New Orleans.

The refugees who stayed added to the city's eclectic cultural mix, already rich with Spanish and African culture. Some of the women and children were impressed into slavery again, although they had been free. In 1809, after Napoleon Bonaparte's forces invaded Spain, French citizens were ordered out of Cuba.[3] Most went to the United States, and thousands settled in New Orleans, with the freedmen increasing its African culture, as most had been born in Africa. The ethnic French whites and free people of color, generally with longer ties to French culture, added their flavor to the culture of the city as well.

Near the end of the century, during the Spanish–American War, Santiago was the site of the major defeat of Spanish troops at San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. After capturing the surrounding hills, United States General William Rufus Shafter laid siege to the city.[4] Spain later surrendered to the United States after Admiral William T. Sampson destroyed the Spanish Atlantic fleet just outside Santiago's harbor on July 3, 1898.[4][5] Cuba had declared independence from Spain but was occupied by US troops for several years. Historians suggest they were there to ensure the sugar economy continued to be productive.[citation needed]

José Martí, a Cuban poet, writer, and national hero, is buried in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in this city.

Role in the Cuban Revolution  Street in central Santiago in 1974

Santiago was the home of the 20th-century revolutionary hero Frank País. On July 26, 1953, the Cuban Revolution began with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by a small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. Shortly after this disastrous incident, País began talking with students and young working people informally, drawing around him what became an extremely effective urban revolutionary alliance. He and his followers developed highly organized cells, coordinating a large-scale urban resistance that became instrumental in the success of the Cuban Revolution.[6]

País' group prepared carefully, accruing weapons, collecting money, collecting medical supplies. They published a cheap newsletter that reported news critical of the government, attempting to counter Batista's censorship of the mainline press.[7]

In the summer of 1955, País's organization merged with Castro's July 26 Movement. País became the leader of the new organization in Oriente province. Two years later he was betrayed to the police and was fatally shot after his capture.

On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro proclaimed the victory of the Cuban Revolution from a balcony on Santiago de Cuba's city hall. The ashes of País were interred in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, where Marti had been buried.

^ "Isla Cuba Pintoresca, Laplante". Graphics Arts Collection, Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University website. 1856. ^ a b Rebecca J. Scott and Jean M. Hébrard, "Rosalie of the Poulard Nation" Archived November 27, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Assumed Identities: The Meanings of Race in the Atlantic World, ed. by John D. Garrigus, Christopher Charles Morris, Texas A&M University Press, 2010, p. 125 ^ Scott and Hébrard (2010), "Rosalie", p. 127 ^ a b Nugent. Walter. Habits of Empire, A History of American Expansion. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2008. p 301 ^ "American Battle Monuments Commission". Archived from the original on February 19, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2013. ^ Cannon, Terrance (1981). "Frank País and the Underground Movement in the cities". historyofcuba.com. Archived from the original on June 18, 2006. Retrieved May 21, 2006. ^ "Who was Frank Pais?". historyofcuba.com. 1981. Archived from the original on June 18, 2006. Retrieved May 21, 2006.
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