The City of the Big Earthenware Jars is Camaguey
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- 03 / 16 / 2010
Since early times, the old village Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe had many difficulties in order to accumulate water; nevertheless, neighbors found a clever solution: they produced enormous clay jars, similar to the ones used in Andalusia to store olive oil.
The quality of the soil surrounding the city turned into an ally since it was perfect for pottery. Having an earthenware jar was such a trendy costume that, by the middle of the 19th Century they were made no longer since there were too many existing in the patios. They were calculated around 16 500 by the year 1900.
Old people use to tell a legend about the magic contained in its waters which warns people that whomever who drinks it stays in Camagüey. Nobody knows how much truth there is in the old story but certainly many outsiders, conquered by an unknown magic, have lived in the region until their last days.
However, there is an element that results into an attraction either to foreigners or locals, even more than its big clay structures: its reach patrimonial architecture.
You can find cobblestone streets, banisters, old roofs showing red tails, squares and alleys every step you made in the Historic Center: a labyrinth of winding streets with almost no trees around, a characteristic that makes of Camagüey a different space from the rest of the other six villages founded by the Spaniards in Cuba in the 16th Century.
One of the most important works of the last years in the city was the remodeling of centric Parque Agramonte, now showing granite floor and benches as well as singular and well preserved vegetation.
PERMANENT ACTION UNTIL 2030
Camagüey City’s Historical Center is considered the largest in the Island; it comprises more than 300 hectares. It preserves attributes and qualities that have acquired a real character of legitimacy.
The strong local sense that distinguishes its architectonic forms and its urban design – determined since the very beginning by a prolonged isolation inland as well as the harmony with the needs and urban dispositions established since its origins – decided an exclusive cultural process that marked the idiosyncrasy of its inhabitants and the enrichment of the environment.
The typical patio from Camagüey
That is the reason for the accumulation of so many values in walls, buildings, streets, stories and legends. According to Teresa Pascual Wong, manager of the Master Plan Office of Camagüey City, the element that defines the Historical Center as singular, universal and exceptional, is mainly its irregular and winding urban design, known as “broken dish”.
The development plan is permanent –affirms Mrs Pascual- until 2030, and it takes into account the collaboration of many local entities in order to recover the values of buildings with high historic, architectural and cultural values.
External view of the Office of the City Historian
Important objectives have been totally finished so far as Parque Agramonte, Carlos J. Finlay´s birthplace, Italian restaurant La Isabela, where the first cinema exhibitions took place in Camagüey City, wide coffee shop La Perla de Cuba, a modern photo studio as well as the old convent where the Office is presently located.
Not so long ago, Café Ciudad was finished, a coffee shop on the corner of Martí and Cisneros, which will be part of a complex the includes the city model at the old Collado building, across the street from Parque Agramonte.
Within the investment plan is the future Cultural Anthropology Center, a building of exceptional value taking into account its style, the fine work of its iron bars as well as its mural paintings and frescos.
“The fact that there were Carrara marble floors slowed down the refurbishing process since it was a task never faced before by the Office and we had to assigned a task force made of engineers and architects from Camagüey University and the Historian Office”, asserted Pascual Wong.
A Cultural Management Center is also being recovered on Calle Independencia.
Human-size clay sculptures at Plaza del Carmen have become a big attraction for foreigners
The project to enhanced centric Calle Maceo has already started. It is a joint action including several organizations to underground all electric and hydraulic nets as well as an over all refurbished of all façades and urban spaces to turn this centric commercial street into a beautiful and original boulevard.
These are only part of the works currently going on in Camagüey City to prevail not only for its attractive earthenware jars but also for a well rooted culture and a rich local history preserved through everyday effort.