In Santiago de Cuba, every cultural manifestation is linked to historical events. The fortifications built by the Spaniards speak of the danger of the attacks of pirates and privateers.
In the 18th century, when the slave uprising took place in Haiti, a group of French colons sought refuge in Cuba. Thus, along its history, Santiago de Cuba was the vortex of a Caribbean immigration that contributed to its cultural, social, and economical development.
A colonial architecture with a great Andalusian and Moorish influence speaks for itself about the cultural antecedents of this city.
Moorish architecture discovers, in turn, the influence exerted by the moors during eight centuries of occupation in Spain. French-Haitian presence becomes present in the "tumba francesa" practice, in the development of coffee cultivation, and in the Tivolí theater. Each stone marks the presence of colonial times and the bloody times of slavery up to the 19th century. But, shaded by the mountains, Santiago started to develop an idiosyncrasy of its own. The battle fields gave birth to the Teatro de Relaciones, where stories or legends of the rural areas were sung, acted or narrated.
The Son and the Bolero, musical genres so diffused in Cuba and the world, were born in this region, where black-rooted music imposes its rhythm to the city and becomes the ruler of the streets every year when the Santiago carnivals are celebrated.
Particularly, the son appears to have come down from the mountains: "the singers are from the mountains", says the lyrics of a famous song by El Trio Matamoros.
The revolutionaries of that eastern zone knew at the same time of heroism and music. In the 20th century, the people of Santiago came out from their classrooms to express their position against any kind of oppression. Many of its martyrs were teachers like Frank País and José Tey.
The Universidad de Oriente constituted a higher-learning institution for the eastern region. Renowned pedagogues, writers, and scientists have been formed in it. The pedagogical institute was named after Frank País and hundreds of professionals are graduated there every year.
Now, culture turns also towards the environment: the protected natural landscape of "La Gran Piedra", the biosphere reserve of Baconao, and the Turquino national park. Santiago is a city that has been privileged by its history, its nature, its music, and its people, having a high mestizo character, are singular due to their way of being as well as because of their hospitality.